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Moscow Classical Ballet. Nutcracker. HUH ?!?!


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[NOTE: I'm reviving this 2009 thread, since Moscow Classical's Nutcracker is once again touring the U.S. in 2010 and I'm actually thinking of attending once again. :unsure:]


I need help in puzzling out a touring performance of the Moscow Classical Ballet, in Nutcracker.

I went expecting a well-trained, well-coached classical company dancing in a stripped down physical production. What we actually got was the reverse: a sumptuous production (sets, costumes, lighting) and some of the most astonishingly bad dancing I've ever seen from a company with a serious classical pedigree.

I should add that this feeling was confirmed at the end of the performance by a good friend, an extremely knowledgeable woman who has seen -- and remembered -- virtually every major classical ballet production to visit New York City from the 1950s through the 1970s. Both of us admitted that there were times that we just couldn't look at the dancers and tried to focus on scenery, costumes, and lighting, all of which were high level.

The cast seemed young, which may explain a certain tentative quality in the performance. But what could possibly account for the erratic arm movements, the eccentric approach to what to do with feet, the sometimes inappropriate facial expressions? It is as if the company no longer gives classes in upper body or footwork. The dancers' necks and shoulders were invariably tight. Big jumps, especially with the men, were accomplished by throwing the leading arm and neck out into the air, with the body and legs dragged behind. Positioning of the head and shoulders among the women was something that appeared to have been left of to each individual. This went beyond mere sloppiness. The inconsistencies almost seemed to be a "company style." (I exaggerate, but not all that much.)

A couple of performers did a creditable job: most notably, the soloist in the oriental dance. The others seemed below professional standards in this repertoire, certainly for a company whose performance base is the capital of Russia. The dancers with biographies seem to have come primarily from the Moscow Academy of Choreography, but also Perm and Saratov

Just a few years ago the Moscow Classical Ballet appeared in the same production (also with choreography by Vainonen, with additions by Vasiliev and Natallia Kasatkina) at Lehman College in New York City. They received a short but respectable review in the New York Times. Now, I admit it is possible that they sent their first-string team to NYC. But even that would not explain just how bad the rest of the company has become.


Has anyone seen the Moscow Classical Ballet recently? Or know about it? Or have any idea about what is going on? :wink:

P.S. To add to my confusion, the performance -- one of three sold out performances in our city -- received a warm standing ovation.

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Thanks for that question, solnishka79. This WAS the legitimate Moscow Classical Ballet and not a pick-up company with a made-up name. The program has a Company History, which mentions that they have

"the distinction of being one of only three state-supported Russian Ballet troops. It was established by the USSR Ministry of Culture as a ballet troupe whose role was to tour the Soviet Union and foreign countries performing Russian classical ballet in its traditional form. When it is not perofrming in its home base, the Kremlin Palace of Congresses Theater, it is traveling the world.

The physical production was something you would definitely associate with a major classical company. Vassily Vasiliev's name appears a total of 5 times in the program (in 3 of which the spelling is "Vasilyov").

There were three dancers listed in the program as performing Masha (Mary): Svetlana Lobanova (trained at the Academy of Russian Ballet; previously danced with the Mikhailovsky), Alexandra Lezina (Laureate of the International Ballet Competition, Nagoya, 2007, she appears to have danced more of the major roles than the other two), and Diana Kosyreva ("one of the youngest ballerinas in the company"). We were not told which one was dancing in this performance. I suspect it may have been Kosyreva, who has not previously danced lead roles.

The dancers listed as alternating Drosselmeier and the Prince were Ilya Artamonov and Artem Khoroshilov (the senior dancer of the two). Both dancers appeared to be very young, but the Drosselmeier was a more confident stage performer than the Prince. I'm guessing that it was: Drosselmeier/Koroshilov and Prince/Artamonov.

The excellent soloist in the Oriental dance was either Alena Podavalova or Svetlana Lobanova.

The charming Fritz, who also danced in the Pas de Trois (to the music that Balanchine uses for Marzipan Shephedesses )was either Ivan Trukhin or Vladimir Yakovlev.

Alexander Pushkarev, one of the older dancers in the company, was an effective Father (especially while miming his scarey story about the Mouse Queen). He looked far from comfortable, however, in tights and a white periwig, dancing along with the large corps in the Waltz of the Flowers.

One characteristic of this troupe was that each ensemble seemed to include one or two dancers who were significantly older than the rest of the cast. It was those older dancers (or some of them) who had some of the elements of real classical style. The were also the dancers who presented themselves best on stage. The contrast between the appealing female Spanish dancer and the clueless, much younger male was especially striking.

The program lists Sergey Belorybkin as "Ballet Master" and Galina Lapina as "Coach."

P.S. Cristian has just started another thread concerning another, much smaller-scale company, from St. Petersburg this time, performing the Vainonen version of the Nutcracker. It's interesting to compare.


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I wouldn't know anything about the claim of the Moscow Classical Ballet to be one of the only 3 state supported ballet companies in Russia. I have been told, however, that every ballet company of a certain standard and 'pedigree' is awarded the title 'state academic', which the Moscow Classical Ballet isn't. It is supposed to be some sort of offiicial stamp of approval, or at least that is my understanding. So it seems strange that the government is willing to support a company without this. Hold on... I just did a search and find that it comes up with Moscow Classical Ballet, Moscow State Classical Ballet and Moscow State Academic Classical Ballet - now what???

Anyway, I did see the Moscow Classical Ballet on 2 occasions. The first time was about 8 years back and they delivered a technically very, very secure performance. The second time, about 6 years back, the standard seemed to have slipped. My complaints were mostly style and personality-related though - their technical prowess was still astounding. But who knows if it was the same company bart saw?

And if it is based at the Kremlin, when at home, where does the Kremlin Ballet go?

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Thanks for that information, canbelto. My curiosity is strong enough to consider purchasing it, or at least investigating further on YouTube.

I've just learned that the "first" company was dancing in Madrid that week and that ours was the "second." It was also "the end of the tour." This has been offered as an explanation, and it may indeed explain a bit. But is it an excuse?

The problem, I'm beginning to think, is one of quality control. A company reputation is analogous to a Brand. When it sells out Brand name products that vary so profoundly in quality (Madrid's performances , I am assuming, being much "better") it is not protecting its Brand. I would think that management would be concerned about that.

On the other hand, the performances WERE sold out. The audience -- heavily weighted towards people who see only one big dance performance a year -- seemed attentive and involved (no fidgeting) and gave the cast one of those now-obligatory standing ovations. So maybe we got what we deserve???

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There is also La Traviata with Vera Timashova, Alexander Gorbatsevich. Moscow Classical Ballet. Choreography by Vladimir Yudivich Vasiliev and Natalia Kasatkina.

Timashova began her career as a professional dancer with the Moscow Classical Ballet Company in 1977 and in 1983 she was given the title of Distinguished Artist of Russia.

Gorbatsevich won a gold medal at the 11th International Ballet Competition at Varna and received the title of Distinguished Artist of Russia in 1983. He performed with the Moscow Classical Ballet as a principal dancer.

They both are now on the artistic staff of Canada's National Ballet School.

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There is lots to be learned by seeing foreign companies -- most important, how used you get to the virtues of the kind of dancing you see most of hte time. Let me recomend Edwin Denby's wicked and brilliant essay on the Paris Opera Ballet, which company emphasized completely different things from the kind of dancing he was used to (since he was used to Balanchine's New York City Ballet, the French things looked "witless" to him at first, and hte quality of his reflections on his own provincialism is first-rate).

Almost any touring company can look appalling -- I remember seeing a small troupe of NYCB dancers led by Heather Watts look quite awful in Apollo, and last year the Kirov looked more dead than alive in its "gala" program in Berkeley (then in DOn QUixote they looked fantastic).

THe MOscow Classical company came to SF ca 1990 with a very stiff-looking Swan Lake, in which hte ballerina wore over-all white body make-up -- never seen THAT before, but it turns out to be my ignorance, they used to do that all the time -- and a wonderful mixed bill, with Vladimir Malakhov in Creation of hte world and Maximova, who looked 14 years old in a white unitard, in an excerpt from Bejart's Romeo and Juliet.

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Update: this company's Nutcracker will be back at the Kravis Center (part of its tour) this December (2010). They're positioned right before Christmas and are competing, by the way, with a return of Balanchine's Nutcracker (Miami City Ballet) earlier in the month !!!

Part of me is actually considering a return. Is that my masochistic side? my adventurous side? my detached reportorial side? or my ever-hopeful side?

Is anyone else seeing this company this year?

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Update: this company's Nutcracker will be back at the Kravis Center (part of its tour) this December (2010). They're positioned right before Christmas and are competing, by the way, with a return of Balanchine's Nutcracker (Miami City Ballet) earlier in the month !!!

Part of me is actually considering a return. Is that my masochistic side? my adventurous side? my detached reportorial side? or my ever-hopeful side?

Is anyone else seeing this company this year?

bart...I think they're also doing Miami...! (Isn't this the same company I saw last year...with that ballerina "Romanova" in the leading role...I wonder?) If it is, then they dance a watery staging of Vainonen's, which is nice to see it still danced after so many years...(I particularly like his Pas de Trois to the Marzipan's music)

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cristian, the version they do is basically Vainonen, with N. Kasatina and Vladimir Vasiliev ("Vasilyov") also credited. Ballerinas performing Maria ("Mary") were either Svetl;ana Lobanova, Alexandra Lezina, or Diana Koskyreva. We weren't told which was dancing at our perfornmace.

Comments about the last tour are given earlier in this thread. Perhaps they will send a better cast this year. (?)

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