Mice scampered about, snow fell from the sky, and couples from around the world came to dance for Masha and her prince during a performance of the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo Monday, Nov. 21.
The production was a feast for the eyes with its elaborate set designs, bright-coloured fantastical costumes and enormous puppets which transformed the stage into something straight out of a child’s imagination. The holiday performance premiered award-winning principal dancers as Masha (Clara) and the Nutcracker Prince as well as a corps of 30 plus Russian dancers. Set to Tchaikovsky’s famous score, the production featured 200 lavish costumes, larger-than-life Russian puppets and nine hand-painted backdrops embellished with 3-D effects.
The production was choreographed by Stanislav Vlasov of the Bolshoi Theatre and used a recorded score of Tchaikovsky’s spellbinding Nutcracker Suite with pieces such as the Dance of the Sugarplum Faerie and The Nutcracker.
The show’s highlights included the Snow Queen dance, the Arabian variation and Masha and the prince’s grand pas de deux.
Although the Moscow Ballet’s beloved Christmas story received critical acclaim in 2010, the 2011 version didn’t always deliver the mastery one would expect from such a renowned company.
The corps dancers were striking to see in their brilliant and elegant costumes and the lead dancers’ performance came across effortless. Unfortunately not all of the dancers’ movements were crisp and technically flawless and the synchronicity of the lifting and leaping was missing in some of the dances.
The beloved Christmas story with a Russian twist told the tale of a young girl, Masha and her beloved present, a nutcracker. When she falls asleep she dreams of a land filled with mice, snowflakes, angels, a Snow Queen, a Rat King and of course, her Nutcracker Prince.
The Russian style is elegantly generous and award-winning dancers Alexandra Elagina and Anatolie Ustinov were impressive as Masha and the Nutcracker Prince. The two partnered beautifully and executed their solos with finesse.
Ustimov is a Laureate of the 2009 International Ballet Competitions (IBC) Moscow and hails from Chisinau, Moldova. At just 27 years old, he is the archetypal male Russian dancer. Elagina who made her Canadian debut as Masha exuded a delicate essence.
The adventure began at the Christmas party with magical toys and the ever-evil Rat King, and the snowy forest. Some characters unique to the Russian Nutcracker included Father Christmas, and the Snow Maiden. In act two they lead Masha along to another peaceful land, where she and the Nutcracker Prince were honored by emissaries from all over the planet.
The Christmas celebration continued with dances from countries around the world; Spanish, Chinese, Arabian, Russian and French — each demonstrating the great dances and spirit of their country’s heritage. The dancers were accompanied by towering and playful puppets which had the audience laughing on several occasions. Masha and the Nutcracker danced a Grand Pas de Deux of their own and the midnight Christmas celebration concluded with the lush Farewell Waltz of the Flowers.
The Arabian dancers, Sergei Chumakov and Elena Petrachenko wowed the crowd with their flexible bodies, death drops and sustained extensions, however Chumakov’s visibly shaking body during the strenuous lifts was noticeable.
The Russian ballet style is not for everyone and while some of the young dancers who graced the Port Theatre stage were not as solid in the first act, the second act had the audience constantly clapping in approval and the overall performance made for an entertaining evening.