Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker is not your average Nut. In 1994, the production debuted in six cities across the U.S. This winter, three simultaneously traveling companies of Russian dancers will bring the ballet to 137 cities, incorporating up to 120 local children in each location. For Mary Talmi, co-founder and producer of Talmi Entertainment, which produces the show, this is no small feat. "The role of arts education in this country is needed more than ever, and the more expansive our tour is, the more I realize that the benefits to the children are way beyond dance," she says.
Dove of Peace www.youtube.com
From August through October, seven dancers embarked on an audition tour, choosing children at host studios across the country. The schools hold rehearsals throughout the fall in preparation of the company's arrival. The day of the show, they're fitted in costumes, rehearse with the company and go on that night. "We have children whose first exposure to someone from another culture, speaking another language, is through the Nutcracker," says Talmi. "It's mind-blowing." In addition to casting students as supporting mice, snowflakes, party children, snow maidens or in variations, Moscow Ballet brings in youth choirs to sing during the performance. "It's not about the children becoming professional dancers," says Talmi. "It's about the expansion of their world and a sense of their own worth."