Donetsk 'Nutcracker' lacks heart, despite its technical excellence


December 20, 1993|By J.L. Conklin | J.L. Conklin,Contributing Writer

For years the Russians have been the standard by which other classical ballet companies are measured. The Donetsk Ballet, which opened its run of seven performances of "The Nutcracker" Saturday evening at the Lyric Opera House ably demonstrated what good ballet training is all about -- yet fine technique can carry a performance just so far.

Perhaps it was opening night jitters (highly implausible in a company of this stature) -- but for whatever reason the spark was missing. The overall performance of the company, while very technically precise and very attractive, was also very blase. What the company had in technical expertise they lacked in emotional drama.

Perhaps part of the difficulty lay with the choreography. While following the libretto of Yuri Gregorovich, after Marius Petipa, choreographer Eugenia Khasianova created a fairly uninspired work. Like the Moscow Ballet's production, Herr Drosselmeyer, the godfather and magician, is given a Freudian focus and the Sugarplum Fairy is not a part of this cast. Curiously enough, the children who normally populate the first act are relegated to a startlingly brief appearance in in the second act. All the "children" at the Christmas party and the mice are danced by adults, and while the effect is more professional, it's not as endearing.

Another problem with Ms. Khasianova's work is the awkward set changes. The ballet doesn't feel connected. The scene shifts are drops in the energy level and the audience waits in limbo while the sets are struck. The choreographer confuses us even more by eliminating the guests bidding farewell -- instead, suddenly .. Marie is in her bedroom saying goodnight to her mother.

The highlight of the evening was prima ballerina Inna Dorofeyeva and her partner (and husband), Vadim Pisarev. The couple are nearly flawless when they dance together. Their seamless Grand Pas de Deux was amazing. Mr. Pisarev's performance has been set in a more comfortable mold since he last performed the Nutcracker Prince in Baltimore three years ago. His dancing is less rushed; his wonderful leaps are now second nature.

Other dancers of merit included Irina Komarenko and Alexander Kasianenko as the Chinese Dolls, Anna Yukchimchuk and Alexander Kazmir as the French Dolls.

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