St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre
December 8, 2006
In St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's Nutcracker, the dancers looked as if they were holding back from the full-blown lifts, turns and leg extensions that make their technique so famous. How wonderful it would be to see them perform in a theatre built for dance.
Still, they offered a high-calibre interpretation based on the ETA Hoffmann story, where Clara journeys to the Land of Sweets with her Nutcracker Prince. Russian ballerina Irina Kolesnikova led the dancers with her steady performance, developing from a wide-eyed Clara into a charming Sugar Plum Fairy. The company offered a pleasing balance between dancing and acting.
A lively Act I stood out, transforming what often appears as boring pantomime into a compelling story. Beneath the dancers' fluffy skirts and behind their measured dance steps were perfectly pointed feet, supple arabesques and articulate hand movements. Steps as basic as walking looked elegant because they were done with so much expressiveness.
In the parents' dance, the performers swooped in and out of swirling patterns, and during the party scene Asia Lukmanova as the Doll, Slava Sunegin as the Arab and Vladimir Ippolitov as the Harlequin all came to life, mixing powerful leaps and pirouettes with animated acting.
The production was divided into three parts, which rarely happens in other Nutcrackers, so when the curtain came down before the battle scene and again before Clara entered the Kingdom, it gave the ballet more of a storybook feel.
The energy faded by the beginning of Act III, with some of the divertissements happening in slower motion, most likely because of the space confinements on stage.
Conductor Aleksandr Kantorov boldly led the small orchestra throughout, though, and in the grand pas de deux, the percussion section in the makeshift pit outperformed the dancers in what otherwise would have been the biggest lifts and turns of the evening.
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