The Times West Virginian

November 22, 2012

‘Great Russian Nutcracker’ coming to WVU

By Nicole Lemal
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Two dancers dance on stage in perfect rhythm, both holding a 10-foot wing.

Moving together, they eventually create one bird with a 20-foot wing span.

In the 20 years the Moscow Ballet has performed the “Great Russian Nutcracker,” this is a new twist to the show that mesmerizes the audience, said Sally Michael Keyes, national director of public relations.

“They loved it,” she said. “We had one audience member who just started crying. It was just beautiful.”

A holiday favorite, the “Great Russian Nutcracker” is celebrating 20 years of touring North America. It will make a stop at West Virginia University at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13.

In 1993, Stanislav Vlasov choreographed and directed the six-week tour, which was led by principal ballerina Lillia Sabitova. Reminiscent of the 1950s, the scene of the play with the bird was included in the 1993 tour in a slightly different performance.

Even though there is new choreography in the 2012 show, it’s inspired by Vlasov’s vision years ago.

“It’s inspired by old choreography, and it’s a way of honoring him,” Keyes said. “Our production, instead of going back to the traditional land of sweets, they go to the land of peace and harmony.”

Another special addition to this year’s show is a Christmas tree that grows to seven stories tall, along with a new number, “Dove of Peace,” performed by two dancers. Towering silk puppets, 200 costumes and nine hand-painted backdrops will light up the stage and mesmerize what is expected to be a sold-out event.

According to information provided by Keyes, the story goes like this:

Behind the curtains for the opening scene will be the Moscow skyline and guests arriving for a Christmas Eve party. Masha, her little brother Fritz and their parents are celebrating the holiday with their loved ones from around the world when suddenly the mysterious godfather Uncle Drosselmeyer arrives with a large bag of Christmas gifts for all the children.

But these are anything but ordinary gifts. Every child at the party, other than Masha, is given a Christmas gift. Later she approaches her godfather, asking where her Christmas gift was. Drosselmeyer gives her a nutcracker. Jealous, Fritz breaks the nutcracker.

Later that night, her godfather repairs it, but as the clock strikes midnight, something happens in Masha’s bedroom. The sound of mice under her bed resonates throughout her room. Trying to escape from the mice, she is stopped and wonders if she is still stuck in a dream.

Other things happen in the house at that point as well. Growing to an enormous size in just seconds, the Christmas tree fills the room and the nutcracker comes to life.

In Act II, Masha and her Nutcracker Prince arrive in the “Land of Peace and Harmony” instead of the “Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” and the Sugar Plum Fairy is replaced by the “Dove of Peace.” Giraffes, birds, lions and other animals will be on the backdrop of the scene.

Keyes said the anniversary performance will feature two new faces: International Ballet Competition (IBC) medalist Karyna Shatkovskaya as Masha (also known as Clara) and Vladimir Tkachenko as the Nutcracker Prince.

An honor graduate of the Perm Choreographic School, Tkachenko has toured to Asia, Europe, Africa and South America.

Debuting with Moscow Ballet in 2011, Shatkovskaya is a multiple award-winning soloist who has performed in several lead roles in some of ballet’s well-known performances. While in Kazakhstan in 2009, she was recognized with an award in the IBC and became the State Prize Winner in 2010.

Along with 40 other dancers, Shatkovskaya and Tkachenko will perform in traditional Russian classical dance. Many of the performers are also couples, which adds a special element to the show.

“Some of the dancers are married and love each other very much, and you sense that,” Keyes said. “It’s really lovely.”

Keyes said music from Tchaikovsky further adds to the beauty of it.

“Tchaikovsky’s music is beautiful all the time, and then when we take the ‘Nutcracker’ and take the spirit of the season, which is the season of giving and loving each other, it’s just kind of a win-win,” Keyes said. “Everybody can appreciate that, from the smallest 5-year-old to the 95-year-old person.”

Tickets range from $46 to $66 and can be purchased at the WVU Mountainlair and Creative Arts Center. WVU student tickets are $28. Tickets may also be purchased online at ticketmaster.com, or by calling 304-293-SHOW or 800-745-3000.

Email Nicole Lemal at nlemal@timeswv.com.