The Nutcracker, Moscow City Ballet at Bath Theatre Royal

I HAVE become so used to going to the ballet and praising the orchestra as much as, and sometimes to an even greater extent, than the dancers, that on some occasions when the dancing has been sub-standard I have contented myself by closing my eyes and enjoying the playing of the score.

When that score is composed by the master of ballet music Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the anticipation is even greater. It came therefore as quite a shock when under the baton of Igor Shavruk, a baton that was to keep them in strict tempo throughout the evening, the Hungarian Sinfonietta Orchestra did scant justice to Tchaikovsky’s music during the overture. On more than one occasion the brass section was not completely accurate in their presentation, and there was sometimes a thin tone to the string playing. Fortunately the conductor was too experienced a hand to allow the all important tempos to become mistimed and so the dancers were not as upset as was the musical ear of some of the audience.

There was indeed a lovely youthful exuberance to the production as a whole which matched the bright sparkling quality of the costumes and settings. This showed particularly in the performance of Ksenya Stankevich, full of innocent joy and love as the young Clara enjoying the delights of Christmas.

This joyful innocence took us through the first half of the story as she becomes fascinated by the wonderful mechanical toys created by master toy maker Drosselmeier, played with an almost sly tongue in cheek attitude by Daniil Orlov. Showing remarkable muscular control Aleksei Tsauko as the Nutcracker Doll and Ksenya Basnet, mechanical Doll, kept the action bubbling along in the right lighthearted manner, with the younger members of the Corps de Ballet responding excitedly as Clara’s childhood friends.

Although Mouse King Kirill Kasatkin and his equally well costumed followers joined in the spirit of story as it moved into a more dramatic vein it was not as easy to follow as the youngsters earlier excitement. It was only when Daniil Orlov, now in the guise of a magician, raised Clara to the heavens like a human sacrifice that the change to a more dramatic tone became real.

As Ksenya Stankevich’s Clara changed from gouache girl to sophisticated woman so too did her dance style, the ballerina replacing the dancer. This transformation was aided  tremendously by the selfless dancing of Dzimitry  Lazovik’s Nutcracker Prince. Throughout, and especially in the Pas de Deux it seemed that his one aim in life was to show off Ksenya to the greatest effect. It is rare that you see lifts done with such surety held with apparent ease, and converted into fascinating difficult final poses.

As one popular Tchaikovsky melody replaced another so Lilia Orekhova was able to make a fine centre piece to the ensemble work of a beautifully costumed Corps de Ballet, working well as a team with several young faces taking the eye as ‘work in progress’. As did the trio’s of dancers from Spain, Arabia, Russia and the scene stealing Anastasiya Krutina and her two high jumping companions with their wonderfully exuberant all to short Chinese Dance.

A company director and artistic director are listed in the programme but not choreographer of The Nutcracker, so no one to name as responsible for creating anew, or re-working past choreography for this company. Whoever was responsible can take a bow for knowing at what level their dancers talents are at present and making admirable use of those talents to create a visually very pleasing production.


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