The Moscow Ballet is coming to the Wabash Valley Nov. 13 and two local girls will perform with them in "The Great Russian Nutcracker."
Halie Hite, 10, a 4th grader at Cornerstone Christian Academy and Zoe Puerner, 8, a 2nd grader at the same school have taken dance lessons most of their lives. They auditioned Sept.10 in Terre Haute for a chance to perform with the world renowned Moscow Ballet.
"At first I thought everybody who auditioned would get picked but that wasn't so," said a precocious, wide eyed Zoe. "You had to be able to dance correctly and listen."
Her mother, Robin Puerner, nodded agreement.
"They try to use as many kids as possible who try out," Robin said. "But they have to have an understanding of the movement and terminology. And it's not a social time. It's hard work. "
The girls have attended practices every weekend since they were selected. Halie will perform as a mouse and Zoe is a snowflake in this elegant, fanciful production of a tale which has become an annual holiday tradition.
"The Nutcracker" is based on the book, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" written by E.T.A. Hoffman in 1816. Composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky was commissioned 75 years later to write the music for ballet. It was first performed in America in 1940.
The story is about a little girl, Clara (Masha in Russian), receiving a special Christmas present from her Godfather, Herr Drossel-meyer, at the family's Christmas Eve party. After the guests have departed, long after her bedtime, Clara is allowed to play with the gift, a traditional German Nutcracker doll dressed as a soldier.
Falling asleep, a magical, mystical tale unfolds in Clara's dreams with the invasion of an army of mice fighting against her brother's toy soldiers who defend the Nutcracker.
The ugly Nutcracker is actually Drosselmeyer's nephew, Hans Peter, who had been trapped by a curse. Clara's love for him transforms Peter back to a handsome young man.
He and Clara, who matures into a young woman in the dream, dance as they prepare for their wedding.
The Moscow Ballet has two casts of 50 dancers. They're comprised of top artists from Russia and former Soviet republics. The productions are designed, choreographed and re-hearsed in Moscow with the dancers touring internationally throughout the year.
According to Moscow Ballet PR Director, Beth Murdock, the Moscow Ballet is very unique compared to American Nutcracker productions due to many factors. One variance is the Second Act setting in the Land of Peace and Harmony, which strengthens the peace theme that is portrayed throughout the performance. In American versions the setting is in the Land of Sweets.
Another difference is the portrayal of Clara. In American performances, two ballerinas play the character. In the first act Clara is usually played by an amateur young girl then after defeating the Rat King, she magically transforms into a young woman, played by the prima ballerina.
In the Moscow Ballet Clara is played by one dancer, the prima ballerina. This balances the continuity of the performance and strengthens the level of dance.
Halie and Zoe are both thrilled about getting to dance in the production.
"I was pretty excited that I got a part in the Moscow Ballet," Halie said.
"I think getting to dance with them is a privilege," Zoe added.
"It's also a good learning experience," Robin interjected. "It's a real honor for them to be part of a professional company like this."