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REVIEW: “Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker”—Christmas Stream

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

Want To Make This Christmas Special? Don’t Miss This Celebration!

Only three more nights ‘til New Year’s Eve! Then you can finally leave this dysphoric year behind and hope 2021 will not be as frustrating. But what will you do until then? After all, we are still in the Christmas season.

Why not go back to a simpler time and celebrate Christmas tradition with the whole family like it’s supposed to be! Even if you’re in a Covid bubble, why not see "Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker" from the best seat in the house—your living room! Get to know your quarantined in-laws on facetime; have some social interaction with your spouse. And experience the smash-hit ground-breaking Video on Demand debut of one of the world’s most magical adaptations of Tchaikovsky’s holiday classic, the “Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker,” as it pirouettes its way on your television or mobile device. But you only have until January 1st to view it!

Over 40 renowned ballet dancers bring to life the timeless story of a young girl who receives the gift of a nutcracker one Christmas Eve and dreams that night of a grand adventure with her Nutcracker Prince. Filled with larger-than-life puppets and nesting dolls, handmade Victorian-style costumes, gasp-inducing special effects and sets, this perennial favorite is a magical production with gorgeous sets, fabulous costumes, and exquisite dancing—truly a fairy tale. The Moscow Ballet has even included special touches of Russian ballet reminiscent of the Moiseyev Ballet, resulting in a most extraordinary performance.


There’s probably no one reading this that hasn’t seen "The Nutcracker" performed at least once during a Christmas holiday season. It all began when French author Alexandre Dumas adapted E. T. A. Hoffmann’s novella in 1844, about a young girl named Clara who was awakened one Christmas Eve to the wider world and romantic love. Dumas renamed his adaptation "The Nutcracker" and made it more optimistic and suitable for children, removing much of the violence from the original book but keeping the basic themes of good vs. evil and the power of a child’s imagination.

Marius Petipa, chief ballet master of the Russian Imperial Ballet, liked this new story and in 1891 decided to make it into a ballet. He commissioned Peter Tchaikovsky to compose the music while having Lev Ivanov, Petipa’s assistant, to create the choreography. The following year, this version of "The Nutcracker" made its debut in Russia, eventually becoming Tchaikovsky’s most popular composition.

In the modern era, many newer variations were produced. But the "Great Russian Nutcracker," as you might have guessed, is different than other Nutcracker productions in that the Clara-like character is named Masha (Iryna Borisova) and she is guided by the Dove of Peace to the Land of Peace and Harmony. All the other interpretations of "The Nutcracker," if you remember, feature Clara traveling to the Land of Sweets.

As the story goes, the dollmaker, Uncle Drosselmeyer, crafts away and conjures up dolls, which entertain the guests at Mayor Stalhbaum's (Artem Krupitsky) home on Christmas Eve. His Kissy doll (Iryna Protsenko) and the Harlequinn doll (Kostyantin Vinovoy) were a particular delight, thanks to their comedic charm and expressive moves. Masha receives a Nutcracker (Mikhail Sherbakov) from Drosselmeyer and the beloved Nutcracker becomes the center of her dream. The Rat King (Roman Baglay) and mice appear and the Rat King battles with the Nutcracker. The Nutcracker comes alive and then becomes the Prince (Sergey Kliatchin). Masha and the Nutcracker Prince then fall in love and journey to the Snow Forest to meet Father Christmas and the Snow Maiden.

Sergey Chumakov and Elena Petrichenko are the two hypnotizing acro-ballet dancers, portraying the dove, that perform the Act II overture. The goal of this number is to promote a message of peace and unity through the traditional Christmas tale, and demonstrate the dancers' strength and the relationship with one another. The partnership is particularly important because each dancer has a 10-foot wing and the two need to move in unison to form the majestic and beautiful white dove with a 20-foot wing span. The costumes, the dancers' flexibility, their trust with one another, and the beauty of the scene make this number truly unique and mesmerizing.

In the Land of Peace and Harmony all the animals and humans live in tranquility with one another. The puppets featured include a bull for the Spanish number, a unicorn for the French number, a bear for the Russian number, a bird for the Chinese number, and an elephant for the Arabian number, and added comedic elements to the production overall.

Chumakov and Petrichenko once again steal the spotlight in the seductive and jaw-dropping Arabian number. However, the heritage numbers are all high energy and enchant the audience in their own unique way, capturing the different cultures on display in each variation.

The festivities come to an end with the Waltz of the Flowers, which feature graceful and flowing rose gold-colored costumes. Masha and the Prince then dazzle us with an unforgettable dance duet, followed by Borisova's elegant interpretation on stage and Kliatchin's daring and confident dance.

The storytelling of the ballet has quite a bit of narrative momentum and suspense, and the style is mythically potent. There’s a hint of mystery (and sometimes menace) in the magic tricks of Uncle Drosselmeyer, a children’s party host dancing role in this version. Local children appear as the mice that attack the heroine, Masha (here played by the adult Ekaterina Bortiakova), and also as cute props (along with 10-foot-tall puppets) framing the national variations in the second act.

Ballet Master Vladamir Troschenko directs this production, which was filmed on stage last season, and was set for streaming on demand from December 19th, 2020, through Jan 1st. For tickets (while you can), please go to You will receive an email from Moscow Ballet with your redemption code, viewing instructions and access to the stream.

Go ahead! Make this Christmas special!

Chris Daniels

Arts & Entertainment Reviewer

The Show Report


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