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Great Russian Nutcracker turns 20 in a tutu

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published November 22, 2012 at 12:31 a.m.

Ballerina Olga Kifyak will be dancing the lead role of Masha and “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” with The Great Russian Nutcracker on Sunday at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall.

— Approximately three dozen young central Arkansas dancers will join the 40 pros from the Moscow Ballet as the 20th anniversary production of The Great Russian Nutcracker comes to Little Rock, 3 p.m. Sunday at Robinson Center Music Hall.

For the anniversary, the western Massachusettsbased company that brings in dancers from Russia and other former Soviet states is putting into production 200 new, lavish costumes and nine new hand-painted backdrops and “sprucing” things up with a new version of the grows-to-several-stories-onstage Christmas tree.

And, based on a 20-yearold vision of a choreographer, the “Dove of Peace” that is unique to this version of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet is “newly imagined” with two dancers forming one bird.

The dove guides the heroine, Masha (Clara in the American version of the ballet), and the Nutcracker Prince through the snow kingdom, where their escorts are Russian folk characters Ded Moroz (Father Christmas) and Snegurochka (the Snow Maiden) to the “Land of Peace and Freedom,” where dancers from around the world (including Spain, France, Russia and China) perform for them.

Sergei Chumakov and Elena Petrachenko, who will also perform the “Arabian” Variation in the second act, “make a miracle on stage,” according to company member Natalia Miroshnyk, acting as translator for the pair.

“It is two dancers creating one stunning bird, with a 20-foot wingspan,” explains Miroshnyk, who will be dancing the “Chinese” Variation, on Chumakov’s behalf.

The result is not a pas de deux, she adds, but a partnership between the two dancers, Chumakov as the right wing, Petrachenko as the left. (They’re not representing political viewpoints, Miroshnyk hastens to note: This is the “Land of Peace and Freedom” we’re talking about.)

“It’s a beautiful new costume,” says Svetlana Todinova, who has been the Dove of Peace in this company since 2009 but who this year is dancing with the other (Western) company that tours The Great Russian Nutcracker. She has also danced the roles of the Kissy Doll and in the “Chinese” and “French” variations.

Ukrainian prima ballerina Olga Kifyak dances the role of Masha (and also performs the second-act tour-de-force “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”) with Viktor Shcherbakov as her cavalier, the Nutcracker Prince.

Some of the Moscow Ballet dancers will visit Arkansas Children’s Hospital as part of a fundraising partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. (Online patrons who use the code HELP when buying tickets will receive a discount and a portion of that ticket price goes to the hospital.)

DanceArts Studio in Hot Springs was the host outfit for the young dancers (some of them with “double identities”) as party children, mice, snowflakes, snow maidens, angels and “frames” for the second-act variations. Because they have to fit into existing costumes, they must be age 7 to 16, under 5 feet, 2 inches tall, and have some ballet training.

The Great



3 p.m. Sunday, Robinson Center Music Hall, West Markham Street and Broadway, Little Rock.

Tickets: $36.95-$79.10, with a $102-plus-fees VIP package that includes a special 20th anniversary nutcracker doll and the new Great Russian Nutcracker book, and $177-plus-fees platinum ticket that includes all that plus a meet-and-greet with the dancers.

(800) 745-3000

Weekend, Pages 45 on 11/22/2012

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