Of Mice and MenDon't look now, but according to the metroplex arts calendars, it's about time for the holiday hysteria to kick in. My friend, Jeffrey Cranor, puts it best: "You can't throw a fruitcake around here without hitting an Ebenezer Scrooge or a Mouse King." And it's not enough for every community theater or suburban dance troupe to try its best to mount a production of the classics--A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker. Each has to exercise its inalienable right to create a "new" version, with "new" costumes, "new" special effects, and "new" choreography. We think it's a classic case of American ingenuity gone awry. We think someone should exorcise the ghost of Walt Disney and slap the Martha Stewart-esque overindulgence out of all of them. There's a reason they're called classics.
So, happy were we to discover a true, grand, classical version of Tchaikovsky's greatest hit, The Nutcracker, complete with a prima ballerina as Clara instead of a smarmy little kid in a pouffy petticoat with ballet slippers. The Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker 2000 brings actual Russian dancers to the States and lets them do their actual Russian thing. Choreographer Mary Giannone says the results are pure ecstasy. "We didn't take a good thing and try to gussy it up," she says, emphasizing the flawless performances of the Russian-trained dancers who perform true to Oleg Nikolaiev's original choreography. "Our audiences feel they have been to a real ballet rather than a holiday event." Giannone says the Moscow Ballet artists are international award-winners trained exclusively in the Russian style, which features bold, assertive technique, romanticism, and passion. That beats glow-in-the-dark scenery, cute little children, and tons of fake snowflakes hands down.