St Petersburg ‘Nutcracker’ shows global appeal of festive ballet

Thu Dec 10, 2015 8:15am EST
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By Grigory Dukor

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - When the curtain rises for "The Nutcracker" at St Petersburg's Mikhailovsky Theatre, it is the culmination of hundreds of hours of toil and sweat by dancers, costume makers, set designers and musicians.

It appears to have paid off. At a recent matinee performance, children looked on wide-eyed as the evil Mouse King did his worst and the Sugar Plum Fairy wowed the capacity audience with a legendary pas de deux that dancers have performed since the first rendition of the ballet in 1892.

A Reuters photo essay on the production - by Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato, with French stage designer Jerome Kaplan assisting with choreography - lifts the curtain on the backstage preparations.

Found at it runs the gamut from a painter touching up scenery to a violinist practicing and ballerina Valeria Zapasnikova leaping in a workout.

"Nacho Duato has created a real fairy tale and a beautiful ballet," Leonid Sarafanov, principal male dancer at the Mikhailovsky Theatre, told Reuters. "I am always happy to rehearse and perform his choreography."

The production, meanwhile, is a clear demonstration of the global appeal of the Christmas classic.

For it is not just in Russia - where dance appeals to fans young and old from many economic backgrounds - that the ballet continues to draw crowds more than a century after Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote the score.

In New York, for example, "The Hip Hop Nutcracker" includes the rapper Kurtis Blow, while a more traditional production by English National Ballet is performed at The Coliseum in London’s West End.   Continued...

Ballet dancers perform in Nacho Duato's "The Nutcracker" at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia November 20, 2015. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor