Even if you've seen Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" ballet, you probably haven't seen it danced in the Russian tradition. You'll have your chance when the Moscow Ballet performs the holiday classic at the Fox Theater on Christmas Eve.
Premiered a week before Christmas 1892 in St. Petersburg, Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" ballet has been a staple of the holiday entertainment repertoire for over a century.
The story for the ballet comes from E. T. A. Hoffmann's story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," adapted as a libretto by author Alexandre Dumas pere.
In the Moscow Ballet version, the ballet begins at a Christmas Eve party at the Stahlbaum home during which the mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer makes a dramatic entrance.
After giving gifts to all the children, he presents magical dolls to his godchildren, Masha (Russian nickname for Marie) and Fritz. Masha's present is a Nutcracker in the form of a soldier. The jealous Fritz breaks the doll.
After the party, Herr Drosselmeyer repairs the Nutcracker, and Masha is awakened by the sound of mice in her room. The mice prevent her from running away, and then everything changes -- the mice grow to enormous size and the Nutcracker comes to life.
The Nutcracker defends Masha, battling the Mouse King. Eventually the Nutcracker is victorious, and is transformed into a prince.
Masha and the Nutcracker Prince are guided through a forest into the Land of Peace and Harmony, where they see dancers from many cultures, dancing flowers and snowflakes and meet the Sugar Plum Fairy. Featured dancer Svetlana Todinova notes that the Moscow Ballet production includes many features of Russian folklore.
"We have two characters, Father Christmas (Ded Moroz) and the Snow Maiden (Snegurochka) escorting Masha and the prince into the beautiful Land of Peace and Harmony," Todinova said. "That's a really, really Russian thing."
Todinova dances the role of the Dove of Peace, another Russian invention, who emerges from the combination of two other dancers.
Other Russian touches are evident in the production itself -- the lavish costumes, innovative 3D sets that evoke great Russian art pieces, and giant puppets from the company's production designer, Arthur Oliver.
Even Russian ballet technique is different. Known for its emphasis on strength, full-body alignment and flexibility, Russian dancers are trained for high extensions, dynamic turns and fluid movement.
A great example of this will be seen in the Moscow Ballet's attention-grabbing Arabian Dance, in which soloists Sergey Chumakov and Elena Petrachenko perform amazing combinations of gravity-defying lifts and spins in their pas-de-deux.
Todinova said the 35-member dance company has been touring with this year's production since Nov. 8 and will continue in the United States until Dec. 30.
"It's been going very well, city to city, state to state," Todinova said.