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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO CONTRIBUTED PHOTO "The Great Russian Nutcracker," Moscow Ballet, 2, 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14, State Theater Center for the Arts, Easton

'Nutcracker' Russian-style at State

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 by JENNIFER McKEEVER Special to The Press in Focus

"The Great Russian Nutcracker," 2, 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14, State Theater Center for the Arts, 453 Northampton St., Easton, is the Moscow Ballet's version of "Nutcracker and the King of Mice," the original tale by E.T.A. Hoffman, with elements of legendary Russian folk characters Father Christmas and the Snow Maiden.

"It's a very energetic and fun and beautiful show for all ages," says Sally Michael Keyes, public relations director, North America, for the Moscow Ballet.

An estimated 40 area ballet students from Northampton Area School District, Whitehall-Coplay Area School District, Bethlehem Area School District and Easton Area School District are participating in the "Nutcracker" performances at the State Theatre. Students auditioned at the Pennsylvania Classical Ballet Academy, Northampton.

Students appear in the Party Scene, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Arabian and French scenes and as Mice, Little Snowflakes and Snow Maidens, according to Dana Nederostek, Artistic Director, Pennsylvania Classical Ballet.

Moscow Ballet's tale tells the story of the girl who falls in love with her Nutcracker Prince on Christmas Eve with a lot of Russian flair. Award-winning dancers Ekaterina Bortiakova and Viktor Shcherbakov perform as heroine, Masha (Clara in the "Nutcracker" United States version) and Nutcracker Prince, respectively.

Exclusive to "The Great Russian Nutcracker" is the "Dove of Peace," in which two dancers wear 10-foot-long wings to become one huge dove at the opening of Act Two.

The 2013 production includes 200 new, hand-embellished costumes designed by Shakespearean expert Arthur Oliver and created in St. Petersburg's oldest theatrical costume shop.

In this version, Father Christmas (also known as Ded Moroz) and the Snow Maiden (also known as Snegurochka) escort Masha through the snow forest on a Russian Troika Sleigh to the "Land of Peace and Harmony," instead of the traditional "Land of Sweets." Dances from around the world (Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Arabian, French) demonstrate the spirit of their country's heritage.

The "Party Scene" unfolds with a Moscow skyline of onion-dome cathedrals and Russian paintings on the Stahlbum's walls.

The Christmas Tree grows some "five-stories tall," with nine hand-painted three-dimensional backdrops from Russian designer Valentin Federov, in an homage to the paintings of Henri Rousseau.

A corps de ballet of 40 highly-trained Russian professionals, with choreography by Lev Ivantov, features Olympic-worthy leaps, grand lifts and 36 pirouettes in the Russian Vaganova technique with delicate footwork.

Anna Nekhludova, ballet master for the Moscow Ballet, has added choreography for the overture, which is unusual for the "Nutcracker."

The Moscow Ballet has two touring companies of 40 dancers, one each for the East Coast and West Coast, performing across the United States, averaging 100 performances in November and December.

Tickets: State Theatre Box Office, 453 Northampton St., Easton;;1-800-999-STATE; 610-252-3132