The holiday season, as far as I’m concerned, has officially kicked off in Spokane with a performance of Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” (the Gift of Christmas Tour) at First Interstate Center for the Arts on Sunday afternoon.
Moscow Ballet’s “Nutcracker” is a simpler time filled with sweet sugarplum dreams and Christmas magic for the entire family to enjoy. In this “Nutcracker,” young Clara is now Masha, but the familiar Nutcracker Prince, Uncle Drosselmeyer, the Snow Forest and Tchaikovsky’s timeless score are ever-present.
What really stand out in this very pretty production are the more than 200 colorful costumes (velvet is put to particularly good use in pants); beautiful and again colorful sets; large and playful puppets and soaring birds; and doll-like handsome male and beautiful female dancers.
My guest for the afternoon, my 12-year-old niece Anya Kay Harmon, is a “Nutcracker” aficionado, having attended Nevada Ballet Theatre’s gorgeous “The Nutcracker” twice with yours truly at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Las Vegas over the years.
The two-hour run time, usually with a 20-minute intermission, can be a challenge for anyone – especially younger children – but my talented, intelligent and thoughtful niece, a cross between Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen, has always been a trooper.
Anya and I discussed post-performance the two notable differences between the productions. The music in this “Nutcracker” is entirely recorded. It’s not a deal-breaker, by any means, but there’s no replacing a live orchestra, which, admittedly, is a costly endeavor.
And while the Las Vegas “Nutcracker” set includes an extraordinary life-sized, four-story dollhouse as the centerpiece and sweeping dancing and staging throughout the production, this “Nutcracker’s” sets were entirely draped backdrops that nonetheless were striking and fun.
“This ‘Nutcracker’ was great,” Anya told me. “I really enjoyed it.” Isn’t this all that matters?
One of the most wonderful aspects of Moscow Ballet is its engagement with the community wherever it tours. Some 10,000 youth dancers, Scouts, college students and more work each year alongside the Russian dancers in four programs developed by Moscow Ballet: New Horizons, Fine Art With Moscow Ballet, Musical Wunderkind and Dance with Us.
On Sunday afternoon, the Spokane area participants were the Crescendo Community Chorus, who was absolutely lovely, and Ballet Arts Academy with director Mimi Ewers. Beaming family members could be heard gushing about their young ballet dancers during intermission and after the performance.
Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” is all about loving family, loyal friends and a strong community supporting the arts – what a wonderful and worthwhile endeavor and collaboration. Let the holiday season begin.
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