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Dance Review : Grigorovich by Any Other Name Still Has Russian Flair


CERRITOS — Prompted by confusing ads and announcements, many local balletomanes believe the Moscow Grigorovich Ballet is really the Bolshoi in disguise.

Not nearly, not yet.

The company that danced "The Nutcracker" Wednesday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts (with a Pasadena "Swan Lake" scheduled next week) represents something like a Bolshoi farm team: youthful trainees gathering experience in the choreography of Bolshoi artistic director Yuri Grigorovich. They are not members of the Bolshoi Ballet, nor are they technically and expressively seasoned enough to camouflage the weaknesses in Grigorovich's joyless, Soviet-era version. However, they do bring exemplary Russian training to their assignments as well as great freshness. And if adult dancers must play children in the Act 1 party scene (as they do here), the younger the adults the better.

Danced to taped Tchaikovsky, this "Nutcracker" begins as a festival of false noises and stale character-dance parodies of bourgeois manners. (Remember Communism?) There's no mystery to Oleg Dedogriuk's buoyant Drosselmeyer, no innocence to Elena Kniazkova's proud Marie (named Clara in most American versions). However, Kniazkova's technique proves undeniably impressive even if she seems essentially a bravura dancer miscast in a role demanding softness and vulnerability.

The ineptly staged Mouse battle introduces the forceful Maxim Knysh as the Mouse King and the technically uneven, easily winded Dimitri Tuboltsev as the Nutcracker Prince.

Alas, the snow and flower corps look ragged, and the great Waltzes for them so deadly in choreographic spirit and invention that you have to keep whispering the words "Kevin McKenzie" to remind yourself that it could be worse.

Reinterpreted as a suite of doll dances, the Candyland divertissement requires all the skill and charm the young company can muster. And the dancers do rise to the occasion, looking happy and well coached. The Spanish and Russian segments feature, respectively, the commanding Tatiana Ledovskikh and the winsome Maria Mosina, dancers listed to play Marie at other, unspecified performances.

The late Simon Virsaladze offers postcard prettiness in his Act 1 set designs but no genuine stage magic when the Christmas tree should grow--only an endless projected snowstorm. Act 2 has more special effects but a highly unappealing backdrop executed mostly in tones of mildewed silver.

As an incubator for Russian stars of the future, and in presenting the first "Nutcracker" of the season, the Moscow Grigorovich Ballet has time on its side. Other companies will presume on the public's Christmas spirit in the Southland this year. But few others will grant us glimpses of a fabled classical style that, even in decline, remains superbly majestic.

* Moscow Grigorovich Ballet dances "The Nutcracker" tonight, Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2. Casting has not been announced and may or may not be the same as reviewed here. Tickets: $16 (children) to $45. The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts is located at 12700 Center Court Drive. Box office: (310) 916-8500.

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