MOSCOW BAL­LET’S GREAT RUS­SIAN NUTCRACKER

Pow­er­ful and po­etic dance, rare feat for kids, two hol­i­day per­for­mances

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - BY JA­COB OGLES

In full hol­i­day splen­dor, Rus­sian dancers de­liver a unique ver­sion of the tra­di­tional bal­let, The Nutcracker, de­light­ing au­di­ences of all ages at the Bar­bara B. Mann Per­form­ing Arts Hall this De­cem­ber.

Rus­sia’s 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 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 the 1950s.

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 Do ve 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 evening per­for­mances. Lara Deme­tri­ades’ dance stu­dio has hosted auditions for the

Nutcracker since 2008, she says, not­ing the auditions hav e been open to girls study­ing dance any­where in South­west Florida, and 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 hard­work­ing 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.”

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” pro­duc­tion.

“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.”

Mayor Stahlbaun's Christ­mas Party (top) shows the styl­ized stage­craft of the ac­claimed per­for­mance troupe. Moscow Bal­let's dance artists (above) will per­form the Waltz of the Flow­ers in a pair of De­cem­ber per­for­mances.

Moscow Bal­let this sea­son in­cor­po­rates life-sized Ma­tryoshka, or Rus­sian nest­ing dolls, mov­ing back­grounds, a fa­mous Moscow sky­line and the fastest Rus­sian troika sleigh, each help­ing to make the show a hol­i­day spec­ta­cle, re­gard­less of cul­tural touch­stones.

Moscow Bal­let Moor Dolls Pet­richenko and Chu­makov (be­low left) will per­form at the Christ­mas Eve Party in the Great Rus­sian Nutcracker. A mov­ing ad­di­tion to the Dec. 28 per­for­mances is the Dove of Peace (be­low right), the two dancers form­ing one lovely el­e­ment in Tchaikovsky’s clas­sic bal­let. Ja­cob Ogles is a free­lance writer and fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia.

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