[ATTENDED: December 8, 2012] The Russian Nutcracker
We decided to take the kids to see The Nutcracker this year. Fortunately, it was being performed at our beloved RVCC by the Moscow Ballet! I saw The Nutcracker performed by the Boston Ballet about a dozen years ago, and the performance was stunning (it was also expensive). This performance was definitely scaled down compared to that one, and it was also shorter (which was good for our kids).
I honestly don’t remember all that much from the Boston Performance (except that when the tree gets bigger, I was blown away). There wasn’t much blowing away with this show. As I say, it was scaled down tremendously–the stage itself was about half the size. But that said, it was charming and the performers–especially the men–were amazing.
I really enjoyed the opening which was quite simple, with the families approaching the castle for the Christmas party–it was fun seeing the adults dressed as kids skipping about while the proper adults strolled casually. Typically the first act is longer than the second and it’s certainly less exciting. I don’t know the ballet well enough to know if they cut any of the scenes, but it didn’t seem quite as long as I remembered. The kids were a little less excited by the grown up fancy ball dancing, but they held up very well.
I enjoyed the sequence where Masha (she’s not Clara in The Russian Nutcracker–I wonder just how different the two are) and her brother have a fight over the Nutcracker. Masha’s brother was quite funny and the broken Nutcracker was amazing in his life-less-ness. Indeed, all of the “toys” were incredible.
The kids may have been ready to go home at intermission, but with a few snacks and the promise that Act II was the more exciting one, we headed back in. Once the dances in the dream land begin, we were captivated. The famous sequence of different countries (the music that everyone knows) was amazing. A Spanish dance is followed by Arabian and Chinese dances. Then comes the Ukrainian gopak and the Waltz of the Flowers. These dances are definitely a chance for the dancers to show off. I don’t remember this at all in the Boston Ballet, but holy cow, the Arabian dancer in particular was amazing with the acrobatics (and we love acrobatics). The Ukranian gopak was also amazing–the strength involved in doing the spins and jumps–wow. The Chinese dancers, able to jump so high and so nimbly while keeping such poise in their arms was wonderful to see.
A charming addition to the show was that the local dance company had their kids in the show. So, while all of the principles were Russian, all of the backing dancers, the mice, the assistants, the younger kids at the present-giving time were all local kids, and they all did wonderfully–I assume they were pretty excited to be able to perform with world class dancers. I wonder if they trained with them at all? Of all the kids, of course, we loved the little mice the best. It was amazing that the were able to keep their feet moving so quickly. They were absolutely convincing as mice. Bravo!
I was annoyed with myself that I didn’t explain the story to the kids ahead of time (although honestly the story is a little confusing to me too). We gave them a little synopsis, but I would have liked to have been able to give running commentary. The ballet is pretty self-evident for an adult (except for the second act, which is crazy), but it would have been helpful if the kids knew what was going on, I’m sure. When the show ended, Clark said that it wasn’t as bad as he thought it was going to be, which is pretty much a rave. And he admitted how much he enjoyed the Ukranian dancer. Tabby was a little more bored than I would have expected since she is taking ballet. We did this mostly for her, and she seemed to like it some, but not as much as I thought she would. But I did catch her a few times putting her arms up and out like a ballerina (which I have to assume the people behind her found charming and not annoying).
The kids behaved wonderfully, and we were very proud of their stamina. I don’t know if we’d go again, next year, maybe a different troupe’s version?
Incidentally, when I went to the Moscow Ballet’s website, it stated that on t he day we saw them perform, they were in fact performing in Minneapolis. The troupe we saw were indeed Russian and the merch they were selling was Moscow Ballet merch, so I don’t quite understand what was happening. Did we get a second string team? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter because the performance was really charming.