Gallery: Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker - November/December 2017 [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
Moscow Ballet Waltz of the Flowers. Photo courtesy of Moscow Ballet.
finest ballet dancers will glide alongside some of the most promising talent to
don a pair of pointe shoes or dance slippers.
In what has become a holiday tradition
that joins the graceful arts of East and West, the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker returns Dec. 28
to the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall
in Fort Myers. The two performances
will cap months of collaboration between the acclaimed dance company and studio
directors in Southwest Florida. “It’s kind of idealistic but this is a very
rarified art form,” says Akiva Talmi, the show’s producer. “It’s important for
young children, who we believe, if introduced to the highest level of this art
form, will fall in love with it and have a richer life.”
The Russian company’s visit also
brings a special opportunity to Southwest Florida―rigorous auditions and
practices for kids hoping to participate in the performance. “It’s a really
great experience for girls to be involved in,” says Lara Demetriades, director
of the Angelic Academy of Dance, a Bonita Springs school. She is overseeing the
selection of children chosen to perform small roles in the Nutcracker.
Talmi has worked on Nutcracker performances in the U.S. for
25 years, since the first Moscow Ballet productions took the stage in 1992. He says
the performances have become a holiday tradition in so many cities because they
offer a chance for Western audiences to see the original interpretation of
Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker,
with Lev Ivanov’s choreography. The show, therefore, is markedly different from
the show most American viewers think of as the definitive version―the George
Balanchine version he staged as artistic director for the New York Ballet in
Moscow Ballet Dove of Peace. Photo courtesy of Moscow Ballet.
There’s no “Land of Sweets,” but
instead the “Land of Peace and Harmony,” an appropriate feature for a holiday performance
tradition started shortly after the end of the Cold War. The show this season incorporates
life-sized Matryoshka, or Russian nesting dolls, and a Dove of Peace dance duo each
bearing a wing that melds into a single 20-foot span. Moving backgrounds, a
famous Moscow skyline and the fastest Russian troika sleigh make the show a
spectacle, regardless of cultural touchstones. And the company, of course,
presents its poetic ballet and the powerful music to energize the afternoon and
Lara Demetriades’s dance studio has
hosted auditions for the Nutcracker since
2008, she says, noting the auditions have been open to girls studying dance
anywhere in Southwest Florida, who could commit to the rehearsal schedule. Demetriades
says the Moscow Ballet and local dance instructors work to find a role for
every child auditioning, from snowflake and mouse roles for some of the youngest
dancers to snow maidens for more advanced dancers.
Russian dancer and audition
director Alisa Bolotnikova, who has performed in such major productions as Don Quixote and The Arabian Nights, stresses there would be no muting of the choreography
for young dancers. “They
must be hard-working and attentive and they shouldn’t have fear of the stage,”
she says of those chosen to perform.
Young dancers will have trained for months to
learn stage routines. The bonus is time with Bolotnikova before the Dec. 28
show. On the big day, children arrive early and work through the two
performances, efforts rewarded with lifetime memories, or a “big chance for
American children,” Bolotnikova says, “to take part in a professional
performance with professional dancers and wonderful costumes of [the]
Moscow Ballet Corps de Ballet Kneeling Snowflakes. Photo courtesy of Moscow Ballet.
And the producers say involvement of children
adds its own magic. “Once we had a performance without children, the scene
looked very empty and the performances weren't so wonderful,” Bolotnikova recalls.
Kids dotting the stage, she says, makes for a “more powerful and colorful”
“It’s an education component we believe in,”
adds Talmi, who through the years has racked up story after story of local kids
discovering ballet and then pursuing careers in dance.
Demetriades says children involved in a
world-class ballet, at the very least, get a picture with a professional dancer
and an autograph. “The kids are always happy and excited,” she says. “It’s a
lot of work, but it’s worth it.”
At a Glance
Great Russian Nutcracker
Performances 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Written by Jacob Ogles, a freelance writer and frequent
contributor to TOTI Media.