Moscow City Ballet brings The Nutcracker to Emirates Palace

After performing sold-out shows in Dubai on the weekend, Moscow City Ballet's The Nutcracker production moves to Emirates Palace this week for three shows.
Principal dancers during a dress rehearsal at Ductac. Satish Kumar / The National
Principal dancers during a dress rehearsal at Ductac. Satish Kumar / The National

Just hours before the curtain went up for the first Dubai performance of Moscow City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker at the weekend, principal ballet mistress Ludmila Nerubashenko sat in the topmost row at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre, her voice blaring through the speaker each time the principal dancer faltered.

“Stop, please!” she says in Russian and drops the microphone to demonstrate a theatrical move from her seat to a giggling 26-year-old Anna Ivanova, the dancer who plays the lead character, Clara, in the popular two-act ballet.

The organisers of The Nutcracker in the UAE, Art For All, had to book the 26-year-old Russian ballet company a year in advance because of the high demand for this particular production around the world during Christmas. In Dubai, the weekend shows were sold out. The production has now moved to Abu Dhabi for performances at Emirates Palace today and tomorrow.

“In Russia, The Nutcracker is an all-year-round favourite,” says Nerubashenko. “And in other countries everyone wants us to stage The Nutcracker during Christmas. I think it’s because the story is so magical, with a Christmas tree and Santa Claus. It’s like we bring a fairy tale for children and adults to life.”

The original stage show was choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, and set to a rousing score by the Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1892.

An adaptation of a revised ­version of German author E T A Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, the story begins at a Christmas party where a young girl, Clara, is gifted a toy nutcracker by her godfather Drosselmeyer.

The nutcracker comes to life at midnight and leads an army of toy soldiers into battle with mice. The nutcracker later turns into a Prince and he takes Clara with him to the Kingdom of Flowers and to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy.

The production saw a resurgence in the 1960s and is now a part of the repertoire of every major ballet troupe. The choreography in Moscow City Ballet’s version, which is classical ballet, was done by Nerubashenko’s husband, Victor Smirnov-Golovanov.

“We first staged The Nutcrackers in 1994,” Nerubashenko says. “It is very inventive and still boasts his choreography, which is highly appreciated. And it comes right from the Russian culture.”

The ballet mistress isn’t sure how many times they company has performed the ballet around the world.

“Maybe 2,000 times already,” Nerubashenko says with a laugh.

The instructor was visibly exhausted after an entire day of rehearsals, but wasn’t satisfied with Ivanova’s bashful damsel routine in Act II until the very end.

She asks the dancer and her partner in a pas de deux to put on their costumes for a final practice.

Ivanova, dressed in a white tutu and embellished V-neck bodice, leaps across the stage and is caught on cue for an overhead lift by Talgat Kozhabayev, who plays the Prince.

Standing tall, the athletic 35-year-old Kozhabayev turns her around and smoothly lowers her into a flying bow pose.

Meanwhile, the technical team that has flown in with more than 40 members – for its UAE performances, the company has had to forgo a live orchestra because of space constraints on stage – is testing the lights and pulling down the digital screen on which snowflakes will appear during the performance. A hand-painted set with white fir trees forms the background.

“I like how there is range of emotions to my character in this,” says Ivanova, after the rehearsal. “Her behaviour constantly changes throughout the performance.”

The soloist, who has been playing Clara for two years, says she particularly enjoys dancing in the first act.

“This is a scene with Drosselmeyer and the Prince, but it is very complicated to explain,” she says. “But more than being technically accurate for this ballet, it’s about becoming the character I play.

“This performance is filled with high energy and passion.”

The Nutcracker is at Emirates Palace Monday (December 15) and on Tuesday (December 16). Tickets are priced from Dh150. Check www.timeouttickets.com for availability

aahmed@thenational.ae

Published: December 14, 2014 04:00 AM

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