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Moscow Ballet adds puppets, peacock to the ‘Nutcracker’

The Moscow Ballet “Great Russian Nutcracker” again comes to the State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton, 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 8 with a dazzling and lavish full-length production.

Based on the choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, and a stunning score by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, the ballet tells the story of Masha, a young girl who receives a Nutcracker doll from her mysterious uncle. The Nutcracker comes to life and turns into a prince.

Masha and the Prince travel to the lush “Land of Peace and Harmony,” where they watch dances from around the world. Classic scenes include “Waltz of the Flowers” and “Snow.” Divertissements include the “Trepak” (Russian,) “Spanish,” “Chinese” and “Arabian” dances.

With marvelous hand-painted sets, beautiful costumes and exquisite performances, the Moscow Ballet production is truly a spectacular holiday event, showcasing some of the world’s best ballet dancers.

Alexandre Dumas Pere’s adaptation of the ballet, in two-acts, premiered in 1892 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It has endured for more than a century and remains one of the most popular holiday presentations.

Audition Director Olga Pasternack tells of new and exciting features this year: a Victorian Toy Puppet Theater and a colorful, eight-foot peacock.

In addition, there will be life-sized Matryoshka (nesting) dolls, which dancers jump out of, and magnificent, 10-foot high animals in Act II’s “Land of Peace and Harmony.”

The 32-year-old Pasternack hails from Kiev, Ukraine. She graduated from Kiev State Choreographic Institute and performs as a soloist at the Kiev Municipal Academic Theatre for Children and Youth.

She’s been dancing since the age of five and became a professional at age 10. This is Pasternack’s first year touring as a soloist and Audition Director of the Moscow Ballet.

Pasternack conducts auditions and rehearsals for local ballet students who perform in the Moscow Ballet “Nutcracker” as part of the “Dance With Us” program for children. Easton area children will take part in this performance, giving young dancers the opportunity to perform onstage with professionals.

Student dancers will play roles from several scenes, such as Party Children, Mice, Snowflakes, Snow Maidens and in the “Spanish,” “Russian,” “Chinese” and “French” variations.

Pasternack tours the United States, auditioning ballet students to fill the children’s roles in the “Great Russian Nutcracker,” which includes 6,000 ballet students across the country.

“I started in August and have 20 schools to visit. We have seven audition directors, so we go all over the United States. We rehearse three days at each school,” says Pasternack in a phone interview.

The number of children cast in each show varies. “It depends on the [size of the] school. Sometimes 30, sometimes 40, or sometimes 90,” says Pasternack. “Dancers can be as young as six.”

The Victorian Toy Puppet Theater is a historically-accurate reproduction. “The puppet show is in Act I and tells a story about the Nutcracker.

“It’s very nice,” says Pasternack. “There are puppets for each variation, such as the [dancing] Bear scene.

“We have a new peacock. It’s very large. His tail opens and is eight-feet-wide. It will be [seen] during the ‘Dove of Peace’ and ‘Firebird’ scenes.

“We also have a Father Christmas Sleigh. We can pull the children in it.”

The Snow Maiden, Snegurochka, wears a traditional and opulent Russian costume of blue.

Pasternack enjoys traveling and working with children. She has performed many of the roles in ‘Nutcracker.’ Her favorite role is Kissy Doll.

What would Pasternack tell audiences about the “Nutcracker” ballet, if they’ve never seen a performance?

“It’s a Christmas miracle, about love, about dreams.”

The Moscow Ballet was founded in 1979 when Bolshoi Ballet principals Alexander Godunov and Leonid and Valentina Kozlov collaborated with producer Akiva Talmi, a graduate of The Julliard School. The Moscow Ballet has been performing “The Great Russian Nutcracker” since 1993.

Tickets: State Theatre Center for the Arts box office, 453 Northampton St., Easton; statetheatre.org; 1-800-999-7828; 610-252-3132

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOMoscow Ballet “Great Russian Nutcracker,” 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 8, State Theatre Center for the Arts, Easton. Copyright - Konstantin Viktorov