A Christmas tree that grows to five stories tall, 10-foot silk puppets, 40 professional dancers and the music of Tchaikovsky promise a feast for the eyes and ears during the "Great Russian Nutcracker" on Sunday, Nov. 25.
Yet it's the careful Russian details that make Moscow Ballet's 20th anniversary production stand out, according to ballerina Svetlana Todinova.
"The show is very beautiful," she said by phone from Spokane, Wash., the ballet company's fourth city of 20 on the tour.
Among the special touches are a Troika-styled sleigh escorted by Ded Moroz (Father Christmas) and Snegurochka (Snow Maiden) and nine hand-painted sets, including Drosselmeyer's workshop and a Rainbow and Angel scene inspired by the painter Henri Rousseau.
"That's a Russian detail and it just makes our ballet more Russian, more folk," she said.
In this version, instead of the Land of Sweets, Masha (also known as Clara) is taken to the Land of Peace and Harmony. Todinova dances in the new "Dove of Peace" scene, which was inspired by the early works of Stanislov Vlasov, the original choreographer and director of Moscow Ballet's first "Great Russian Nutcracker."
"The two folk characters are so beautiful walking on the stage," she said.
The production also features Pyotr Tchaikovsky's complete "Nutcracker Suite" score danced by award-winning principal dancer Karyna Shatkovskaya and her partner, Vladimir Tkachenko, along with the 40-member ballet company, all dressed in 200 handmade costumes created just for the 20th anniversary.
"We have very beautiful costumes," said Todinova, who completed her formal ballet training at the Ufimsky Choreography School, which is now named the Rudolph Nureyev Russian State Ballet Academy. Todinova has been with the Moscow Ballet for 13 years and currently teaches there.
That skill has come in handy as she works with hundreds of young dancers who are cast for the touring productions. Fifty-six local children will dance in the Rapid City show (see story).
"I just love teaching," she said. "I think it's a beautiful experience for them. It's a great chance for them to dance with us. They can watch us and dance side by side on the same stage."
Having a different group of young dancers in each city makes the show more interesting for the company, she said.
"They are always asking for autographs," she said. "Some of them are just asking for advice and looking forward to being a great ballerina."