Moscow Ballet dancers elevate 'The Nutcracker'

November 29, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

An article in Monday's Today section incorrectly listed the phone number for the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis. The correct number to call for information regarding the ballet company's production of "The Nutcracker" is (410) 263-2909.

The Sun regrets the error.

In America, most young ballerinas take their first important steps on stage as one of the children attending the party in a big production of Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker."

A lucky, talented girl will get to play Clara, whose dream provides the fanciful action of the holiday perennial.

But in Russia, the ballet's birthplace, "The Nutcracker" plays a small part in a young dancer's development.

"Most children of talent start at a special choreography school, and they have their own productions -- mostly, it is [Leo Delibes'] 'Coppelia,' " says Natalia Telegina, a dancer with the Moscow Ballet who has instructed 40 children dancing in a "Nutcracker" opening tomorrow at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Ms. Telegina, 20, spent four days at Towson State University last month working with members of the TSU Children's Dance Division -- and did the same with student dancers in the seven other cities on the troupe's American tour, which after Baltimore continues to New Haven, Conn., Charleston, W.Va., Syracuse, N.Y., and Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Fla.

Speaking through an interpreter, rehearsal pianist Saryana Kostovetsky, one morning during her Towson stay, Ms. Telegina explained that "The Nutcracker" is hardly the dance icon in VTC Russia it has become in this country.

The ballerina said the Moscow Ballet version, choreographed by Stanislov Vlasov, a former Bolshoi Ballet star, will have "more of a Russian aroma," with the addition in the first act of an excerpt from "Swan Lake," a far more celebrated work in the home country.

And the little girl who travels into the world of dreams is not even named Clara, but Mascha.

Don't worry, though. The Christmas tree does grow up from the floor, as in any good old American "Nutcracker."

Actually, Ms. Telegina said she had been an exception to the rule. Born in Perm, a legendary ballet city in Russia known for its dance conservatory, she began dancing at 5 and often performed "The Nutcracker."

Like any American student, she began as a party guest, had a solo part as a snowflake and moved on to starring roles. Currently Ms. Telegina is a student at the State Theater Institute of Russia, and plans to be a ballet teacher.

However, she indicated that the TSU performers did not need that much instruction on the Moscow Ballet's variations on the familiar theme.

"They are very well-prepared. They are trying very hard, and they're really catching it," Ms. Telegina said.

"They videotaped everything while she [Ms. Telegina] was here, and they've been rehearsing several times a week since she's been gone," said Dr. Helene Breazeale, associate dean of the TSU College of Fine Arts and Communication and chairman of the university's dance department.

In 1989, Dr. Breazeale launched an exchange program with the Leningrad Conservatory, leading 32 Towson dancers to Russia to perform and study in the Russian city now called St. Petersburg.

Gloria Lang, who directs the Children's Dance Division, said the young dancers in "The Nutcracker" were chosen in September from about 120 who auditioned, and range from 7 to 18 years old.

"This is very different in that it integrates so many children into the production," said Ms. Lang. The local students play not only party guests

and mice, but snowflakes, butterflies, and dolls, and also perform in the Chinese, Arabian, Russian and Marzipan scenes.

"They're doing dancing, they're not just standing there," she said.

Besides the young dancers, local children's choirs are also participating in the Moscow Ballet performance, opening the show by singing the song "Kalinka," a wish for peace.

The choirs, which learned the Russian words this fall, include the Children's Chorus of Maryland, groups from Hawthorne/Hernwood School, Lansdowne Elementary, Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Pine Grove Elementary, Harwood Elementary and singers from some Harford County schools.

'Nutcracker' performances

Other area productions of "The Nutcracker" include:

* Ballet Theatre of Annapolis: Dec. 4-5 performances at Stephens Hall at Towson State University, 7900 York Road. Also matinee and evening performances Dec. 11-19 at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Annapolis. Tickets: $15 for adults; $10 for children, students and seniors. (410) 463-2909.

* The Ellicott City Ballet Guild: Evening performances Dec. 7-12 and matinees Dec. 11-12, at Smith Theatre at Howard Community College, Columbia. Tickets: $8-$13. (410) 465-3547.

* National Ballet: Performances at Friendly High School Auditorium, Fort Washington; Mary Harrison Cultural Arts Center, Dunkirk; and Meyers Theater, Bowie State University. Tickets: $10-$15. (301) 249-1178 for dates and times.

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