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Dancers in the snow scene from Staatsballett Berlin's Nutcracker. Carlos Quezada, Courtesy Staatsballett Berlin.

The Nutcracker has been a dancer's tradition for over 125 years. As a student at Russia's Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg in the early 1900s, a young George Balanchine performed in the original production of The Nutcracker, created in 1892, at the Imperial Mariinsky Theater. In fact, that production had a huge influence on his own version, choreographed in 1954 for the New York City Ballet—and now performed at Christmastime by companies across the nation and abroad.

In 2013, Russian choreographers Vasily Medvedev and Yuri Burlaka staged a revival of the original Mariinsky production for Staatsballett Berlin, based on the 1892 libretto by Marius Petipa, choreography by Lev Ivanov and original set and costume designs. Using a combination of Stepanov notations and early film recordings of Nikolas Sergeyev's first stagings of the ballet in the West, Medvedev and Burlaka built a version of The Nutcracker. Though not a step-by-step reconstruction, their production transmits the original's "unmistakable flair," as they explain in the program notes. Pointe took a look at both the Berlin and New York productions to see how Balanchine's childhood Nutcracker might have influenced his own. We found a lot of similarities—and a few key differences.

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Ballet Stars
Yan Revazov, Courtesy Staatsballett Berlin

When Yuria Isaka danced the grand pas de deux in Staatsballett Berlin's The Nutcracker alongside Daniil Simkin last winter, you never would have known it was her first season as a professional; a graduate of the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco, the fledgling corps member dances with a refined maturity and pristine clarity, exuding a particularly honest and infectious joy. "It's only now starting to sink in that I got to dance Clara," admits Isaka, a native of Japan. "Daniil is so imaginative and kind, and really took time to work with me on the role. It was amazing to dance with him!"

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Maria Kochetkova in Wayne McGregor's Chroma. Erik Tomasson, Courtesy Joyce Theater.

Maria Kochetkova's first season as a freelancer has been a whirlwind! A year after leaving San Francisco Ballet, she's already guested in Oslo, Berlin and London. Now, she's got something exciting in the works: From July 16-20, New York City's Joyce Theater will present her first solo program, Maria Kochetkova: Catch Her If You Can. Mounting such a production took a lot of time, self-development and courage, she says—but she's up for the challenge. Between rehearsals in Berlin, Kochetkova talked to Pointe about her favorite moments from the past year, her plans for the Joyce performances, and the ups and downs of life as a rogue ballerina.

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Yos Clark, of Africa's Ivory Coast. Courtesy Ballet Rising.

From his home in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, an eight-year-old boy named Yos Clark discovered ballet from the film Un, Dos, Tres, and began teaching himself to dance through videos. A teacher in France saw photos of Yos dancing online, and taught him over Skype because the studio in Abidjan was too long of a commute for him to train there on a regular basis. Apparently, the lessons paid off; last year, Yos received a scholarship to continue his training in Warrington, England.

Dancers like Clark are what propel former Dutch National Ballet principal Casey Herd recently; since leaving the company three years ago, Herd has become determined to shed light on the lesser-known stories of dancers making it around the world. Now, he and his friend and colleague Chris Weisler are creating a documentary project called Ballet Rising. Together they have been transversing the globe, searching for people embracing ballet. (Since the series is still in development, a premiere date is TBA.) Between stops, Pointe touched base with Herd over the phone to learn about the project, where his travels have taken him so far, and what his hopes are for the future of global ballet.

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Frank Andersen coaches Stattsballett Berlin corps member Alicia Ruben during a rehearsal of "La Sylphide." Yan Revazov, Courtesy Stattsballett Berlin.

Inside the sky-lit Studio 1 at Staatsballett Berlin, Frank Andersen is just like a kid in a candy store as he leads an Act I rehearsal for August Bournonville's La Sylphide. Passing gleefully from dancer to dancer, he assigns each with a specific story to tell. "Whatever you do," he tells Alicia Ruben, a Berlin-born corps member learning the role of Effie, "don't look in the mirror. Trust me, you'll be fine. Your eyes say everything."

Since leaving his post as artistic director of the Royal Danish Ballet in 2008, Andersen and his team, who include his wife Eva Kloborg and longtime colleague Anne Marie Vessel Schlüter, have staged Bournonville ballets for companies throughout the world. Last week, just before the Berlin premiere of La Sylphide, we caught up with Andersen to hear about his passion for sharing Bournonville's legacy, the rewards and challenges of staging Bournonville abroad, and his hopes for the future of Danish ballet.

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Ballet Stars
Alicia Amatriain in the title role and Roman Novitzy as Dr. Schöning in Christian Spuck's Lulu. A Monstre Tragedy. Photo Courtesy Stuttgart Ballet.

It's not every day that a company presents a work so original, both in concept and execution, with dancers so well suited to its unique strengths, as Stuttgart Ballet in Christian Spuck's revival of Lulu. A Monstre Tragedy. Spuck, now artistic director at Zurich Ballet, choreographed the ballet while resident choreographer of Stuttgart Ballet in 2003.

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Hungarian National Ballet dancers (and recent newlyweds) Lilli Felméry and Gergő Ármin Balázsi in "Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Attila Nagy, Courtesy Hungarian National Ballet.

As the Hungarian National Ballet prepares its first U.S. tour to New York City's Lincoln Center this week amid a busy fall season in Budapest, first soloist Lili Felméry and principal dancer Gergő Ármin Balázsi have a lot on their plates. But adapting to the unknown is nothing new; since joining the company, both Hungarian dancers have tackled impressive lists of classical and contemporary roles. Just recently married, they're bursting with excitement to perform in New York together, where the company is performing Swan Lake, Don Quixote and an all Hans van Manen program. Pointe caught up with the newlyweds to hear about some of their favorite onstage moments, honing the details of style, and favorite memories learning from some of the dance world's greatest masters.

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Gergely Leblanc and Tatiana Melnik in Hungarian National Ballet's Don Quixote. Photo by Peter Rakossy, Courtesy HNB.

The Hungarian National Ballet has opted to "go big or go home" for its U.S. debut at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. As part of the monumental New York City tour, which also includes performances by the Hungarian State Opera, the organization will transport over 350 employees—including dancers, singers, musicians and crew members—along with its own sets, costumes and lighting. The opera debuts October 30, followed by the ballet's performances November 7–11.

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