Annual productions of “The Nutcracker” may be an enduring holiday tradition all over the world, but there is nothing quite like the lavish spectacle of Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker.” The Moscow Ballet returns to Savannah on Dec. 19 on their “Dove of Peace Tour” with a mission of goodwill and cultural exchange.
“This is absolutely a unique show because they have their own portion of ‘The Nutcracker,’” explains Yuriy Kuzo, dancer and audition director for Moscow Ballet. “In the original, we have the Land of Sweets, but in Moscow Ballet we have the Land of Peace and Harmony.”
Since 1994, Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Ballet” has featured an exclusive scene in which a dancing couple, each person with a lone wing on their arm, fuse into a gorgeous peace dove with an impressive 20 foot wing span.
“It’s amazing and very difficult,” says Kuzo. “They have a lot of athletic movements; it’s very beautiful.”
The ballet is heavy on detailed, hand-crafted costumes and lushly designed sets, but another unique aspect of the Moscow Ballet production is its emphasis on all things Russian.
“This show has a huge influence from Russian culture,” says Kuzo. “We have the Russian traditional characters, a huge troika sleigh (with three horses), and we have a lot of traditional Russian toys like nesting dolls.”
Part of Moscow Ballet’s mission of peace includes inviting local dancers to join the production on each stop of its 150 city tour. The Ballet School, one of Savannah’s premiere dance studios, is providing almost 70 young dancers, ranging from 6 to 18 years old, for the show at the Lucas Theatre for the Arts.
“We were invited three years ago to be the host studio for the Moscow Ballet Great Russian Nutcracker,” says Christina Bunn, dance instructor at The Ballet School. “They send a Russian ballerina to actually hold the auditions. They are open auditions so we have kids from all over Georgia and South Carolina.”
The Ballet School, which was reopened by Artistic Director Heidi M. Carter in 2009, focuses on traditional dance, as well as character dancing, a form of folk dancing stylized for ballet.
“Which is particularly good for the 'Nutcracker' because you have the Russian dance, the Chinese, the Spanish, Arabian, so that would be classified as character dancing,” says Bunn.
You might think it was a challenge for Moscow Ballet to recruit and train new children for each performance, but the kid’s enthusiasm adds a shot of youthful energy to the shows.
“In the United States there are a lot of talented kids,” says Kuzo. “When they meet me, they always have this fire in their eyes, a desire to work and learn something, so it was a very cool experience for me.”
The young ballerinas gain valuable experience and get to work with some of the best professional dancers in the world.
“It’s really great,” says Bunn. “They bring all their costumes; the costumes are absolutely beautiful. They have all the sets and the kids get to dance on stage with the Moscow Ballet dancers and rehearse with them, as well, so it’s very exciting. The kids are pretty awestruck.”
“Our tour is dedicated to peace in the whole world,” says Kuzo. “When we are dancing we are showing how culture and the arts can capture each heart and explain to the people that peace is the best thing in the world. We are showing all of this and sharing this with the kids and explaining to them that they are dancing to bring pleasure and peace to the hearts of people. They understood this and for them it is a huge honor.”