ActivePaper Archive Nutcracker dazzlingly shows Russian roots - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 12/23/2016


Nutcracker dazzlingly shows Russian roots

Moscow Ballet’s touring Great Russian Nutcracker, which returned after a twoyear-plus absence to Little Rock’s Robinson Center on Thursday night, is a highly traditional, very Victorian take on Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s classic Christmas ballet.

Three dozen pros plus a few dozen young locals from Little Rock’s Dancers’ Corner School of Dance provided a reminder, after a couple of generations of George Balanchine’s Americanized version, that the central character is named Masha, not Clara, and that the second-act variations are based on national themes and not, well, just candy.

Tatiana Nazarkhevich as Masha and Andrey Batalov as the Nutcracker Prince showed why the Russians remain the principal keepers of the classical ballet tradition. (Masha, no cute child, must work in this production — she and Batalov also danced the Land of Snow pas de deux and all that stuff the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier do, and in sterling style.) Costumes and drops were sumptuous.

Top of the rest of the choreographic crop: gristle-boned Anna Radik and S e rgey D o t s e n ko, wh o brought down the house in the Arabian Variation and also served as the wings of the Dove of Peace that leads Masha from the Land of Snow into the Land of Peace and Harmony. Michail Botoc, paired with Veronika Melnyk in the Russian Variation, always had one more fantastic move each time he came on stage.

The local youngsters did a creditable job filling out the cast in roles (party children, mice, snowflakes, snow sprites, snow maidens and Act II attendants) for which it’s not practical to hire fullgrown dancers, and also helped fill Robinson’s seats with family members. (Note: Nobody blames you for wanting to document your budding ballerina’s onstage glory, but cellphone filming violates Moscow Ballet’s intellectual property rights and flash photography distracts dancers and audience.)