It’s more a case of tour scheduling than holiday creep, but a touch of the Christmas season arrives Thursday when a Moscow Ballet company brings its “Great Russian Nutcracker” back to the Midway Performing Arts Center.
The company, one of three touring with the “Great Russian Nutcracker,” has come to Waco in December in past years, but visits this year in November as the parent organization celebrates its 25th year of Nutcracker performances in America.
Its reach has expanded considerably in that quarter century of dancing the beloved Tchaikovsky ballet, growing from one touring company and eight cities to three and 132 cities, noted Moscow Ballet North America publicist Sally Michael Keyes.
The “Great Russian Nutcracker” is the first of two “Nutcrackers” performed this year at the Midway Performing Arts Center in Hewitt. The second arrives Dec. 2-3 when Ballet Frontier of Texas from Fort Worth brings its “Nutcracker,” one that will feature live accompaniment from Midway High School’s Camerata Orchestra. Both productions will incorporate young dancers from Waco-area dance schools.
The Russian one has 36 dancers, supplemented by 30 local dancers who will take the role of snow sprites and maidens, small mice, snowflakes and children at a party.
Fans of the traditional “Nutcracker” commonly seen in the United States will find a slightly different storyline in the Russian version. Its heart is the same, the Christmas eve fantasy of a young girl named Masha (Clara), who dreams that her wooden Nutcracker comes to life, defends her from an army of rats, then, turned into a prince, guides her through a magical land of imagination.
In the Russian retelling, Masha and her prince journey not through a realm of candy and sweets, but the Land of Peace and Harmony. Dancers there represent animals associated with countries, such as a bear for Russia and a dragon for China. The Moscow Ballet touring production also has a signature “Dove of Peace” formed by two dancers.
Viewers will see the Moscow Ballet’s characteristic style of dance, one marked by dancers’ high leaps, well-defined positions and attention to detail, said Keyes. “And they emote — you see what they’re feeling in their facial and body expression,” she added.
The production that performs Thursday has some changes from its previous Waco appearances. Seven new drops add different backgrounds for scenes, including one for Uncle Drosselmeyer’s workshop that creates a three-dimensional effect.
The Dove of Peace scene will feature a dancer in the background with a flying dove puppet, one crafted by famed South African puppeteer Roger Titley.
There’s also a new Masha, ballerina Iryna Borysova, and a new prince, principal dancer Konstyantyn Vinovoy. Borysova is principal ballerina and soloist with the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine in Kiev while Vinovoy is principal soloist with the Kiev Municipal Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. Both dancers have performed in Europe, North America and Asia.