The Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker tours a remarkable 144 cities, with extravagant set design and possibly the most dazzling production of the classic story that you'll see this Christmas season.
What makes this touring version special to Savannah, however, is the inclusion of a local ballet dancers between the ages of 6 and 18. These dancers, along with the touring cast of international professionals, comprise the large cast that are set to take the Lucas Theatre stage on Fri., Dec. 20 at 3 and 7 P.M.
Soloist and audition director Mykhailo Shcherbakov, who plays the Nutcracker Doll in Act I of the production, traveled to Savannah to audition the young dancers—something that hit home for him as someone who was accepted Kiev Choreographic Ballet College at just 10 years old. His training and years of experience, he tells Connect, helped him audition and work with the local dancers in a focused way that was unique to each performer.
“I have a lot of fun with [the kids] because they’re all different ages and different ballet levels. I try to find a special way to work with them, because you cannot work the same way with kids who are older and with ballet dancers who are younger,” he says. “I just need to be really [open] to finding the connection with them in the process. In this case, it was really easy and fun.”
The local dancers who will be part of the show auditioned at The Ballet School for various roles—mice, snowflakes, party children, snow maidens, as well as Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and French variations. The Moscow Ballet’s inclusion of local dancers in their version of the Nutcracker is part of an initiative called Dance With Us, pioneered by the company’s producer Mary Giannone Talmi in 1993.
This year’s production features a 50-foot Christmas tree, as well as six-foot Russian nesting dolls and a brand new peacock whose tail opens to be eight feet wide. These are just some of the majestic set pieces and production elements that can be expected at the performances.
Shcherbakov says that one of his personal favorite scenes with the young local dancers is the famous party scene.
“During this scene, there’s a lot of connection with the ballet dancers. They’re all part of the big picture and it really makes the scene come alive,” he says.