Music: Pyotr IlyichTchaikovsky
Director: Lyudmila Nerubaschenko
Conductor: Igor Shavruk
Choreography: Victor Smirnov-Golovanov
Reviewer: Bill Avenell
There is something magical about the phrase ‘going to the ballet’ and, by and large, the Moscow City Ballet (MCB) does its bit to maintain that reputation in the 2017 tour that commences at Chichester Festival Theatre.
Firmly in the classical Russian School, the MCB always manages to bring freshness to its performances and the current tour is no exception.
As with many ballets, the background plot to The Nutcracker is somewhat sketchy. It is based around the idea of a Christmas party given for Clara, danced beautifully by Kseniya Stankevich, during which her godfather turns Christmas toys into real characters, notably the Nutcracker Prince, another tour de force from Talgat Kozhabaev, who battles against the Rat King and his minions in the Kingdom of Flowers.
It may be sketchy but the plot does provide a framework for some wonderful cameo variations and, now legendary, ballet roles such as the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy and the Adagio Maestoso Pas de Deux; pieces from Tchaikovsky’s magical score that everyone recognises even if they don’t know where they come from.
Stankevich is a relative newcomer to the MCB and is a delight, not only dancing with grace and lightness of foot but miming her part to perfection and conveying the sense of wonder that a young girl might exhibit in such magical circumstances. Kozhabaev is also impressive, particularly with some of his lifts in the Pas de Deux, and the two of them are backed up by some other impressive performances. Ekaterina Tokareva in the Spanish Dance and Ksenia Basnet in the Russian Dance catch the eye as does the ever elegant Liliya Orekhova dancing the Flower Fairy and Valeria Kruglova a wonderfully doll-like doll.
All this is performed in front of Natalia Povago’s beautiful designs and some of the tableaux that Artistic Director Lyudmila Nerubaschenko creates are stunning.
There are a couple of low points. The lighting leaves a bit to be desired. The Eastern Dance verges on the embarrassing and Igor Shavruk’s Hungarian Sinfonietta struggles a little with Tchaikovsky’s sumptuous music.
But the overall impression is one of colour, happiness and technical expertise, and there must be many of the audience scurrying home hoping to find similar presents under their Christmas Tree.
Runs until 8 January 2017 | Image: Moscow City Ballet