Port Theatre – November 22, 2011
By Gee Bossin —
First and foremost, although I can’t list every memorable moment, the Moscow Ballet’s staging of the Great Russian Nutcracker was in a nutshell — phenomenal. Just to get that out there.
But let’s start with the choreography, the dancers’ ability, skill and their artistic interpretations of their roles.
As the curtains open, we have two toys, a wind-up doll, and a nutcracker soldier. The doll has jerky but strong movements, quite different from most female roles in ballet. Her grace was still very apparent, despite the jerkiness appropriate to her clockwork mechanism. The Nutcracker dances as a toy soldier, marching around the stage, arm and leg joints locked, all moving in isolation. By far, these two toys portray the most unusual application of classic ballet forms, creating a very realistic representation of their characters.
Next, we are escorted to a ballroom party at Masha’s (Clara’s) house. There we find the children’s parents, lovely ladies dressed in satin and their partners in tail coats. The costuming in this ballet is over-the-top, eye-catching and bright. At the party’s end, the children receive gifts. A charismatic man (henceforth known as the mysterious godfather) waving a wand and wearing a sparkling coat gives Masha the Nutcracker toy.
Ever present in the Nutcracker, are the rats, their evil Rat King, and the Sugar Plum Faeries. The rats were sneaky, and made audience laugh by dance-fighting a battle with a battalion of soldiers led by the toy Nutcracker armed with a sword and horse props. The classic Sugar Plum girls danced a group number to “Waltz of the Snowflakes”, and were then joined by Masha and the Nutcracker toy (now magically transformed into a living prince), Father Christmas and the Snow Maiden, sporting long, blue, fur-trimmed robes.
A sprinkling of snow falling on the dancers’ heads, Act l comes to a portentous close.
Act ll starts with Maypole dancers and the Dove of Peace beckoning couples from Spain, China, Russia, and Arabia (the costumes and dances took its influences from the Middle East to India). Each dancing couple dressed in matching costumes performs a themed dance representing the diverse cultures. The Russians danced to the famous Tchaikovsky piece “Trepak”. The Arabian variation featured many acrobat-like tricks. The Spanish variation had a large puppet-bull in the background, charging occasionally across the stage, to the delight and amusement of the audience.
We then move into the Waltz of the Flowers, featuring many couples dancing in coral-pink costumes in front of a floral-painted set. The gracefulness of the dancers, the pairing off and individual movements, as well as group pieces performed in perfect unison contributed to the impressive effect. Then the pink dancers trail off stage leaving the Nutcracker Prince and Masha to dance a beautiful duet. A highlight of this piece were its fancy lifts — each one bringing a sustained round of applause.
During the last dance, a whole ensemble of dancers and puppets fill the stage. Meanwhile a puppet representative of each culture would peek out from the wings. The multi-cultural dancers, a pink pair from the “Waltz of the Flowers”, Masha and the Nutcracker Prince, the Mysterious Godfather, and more performed. Each couple danced short pieces in turn, while Godfather dashed here and there across the stage tapping various objects with his wand as if he were conducting the show and the audience. It was all wonderfully unique, each pairs’ dance a complementary contrast of style and movement.
As Masha’s wonderful dreamlike adventure comes a close, the curtain falls on a tender scene of her wearing nightgown and smiling as she cradles a smaller, child-sized stuffed nutcracker doll.
Executed with great skill and flair, the exotic costumes and backdrops, and flawless dancing set to a timeless score, this presentation of The Great Russian Nutcracker left all theatre-goers young and old with vivid memories of an evening to treasure.
Hope you enjoyed the review as much as I enjoyed the show! Your comments and insights are welcome.