Lively and resourceful, with an unusual array of bright, painted backdrops adding to the Christmas cheer, "The Great Russian Nutcracker" came to the Wiltern Theatre on Sunday performed by the Moscow Ballet.
Choreographed in 2003 by Anatoly Emelianov, this version used adults in the children’s roles and kept a small cadre of soloists constantly dancing. In the last act, for example, the divertissement couples (Spanish, Chinese, Arabian, etc.) took over what is normally the Mother Ginger music and lent their virtuosity to the "Waltz of the Flowers" as well.
In that corps showpiece, and in the Snowflakes ensemble, Emelianov's bland classicism wasn’t equal to the moments when Tchaikovsky’s music (recorded and often deafening) became increasingly passionate. And in the last act, some of his divertissement duets found his males and females working at cross-purposes. But most of his choreography neatly dovetailed "Nutcracker" traditions with the technical capabilities of contemporary dancers.
What’s more, using music that is usually wasted, he created a sweet "Dove of Peace" duet at the beginning of Act 2 in which Marina Yegorova and Dmitry Vasyliev -- each outfitted with one enormous wing -- linked up gymnastically for artful avian imagery. Yes, the concept sounds like Soviet-style kitsch, but these artists made the result disarmingly poetic.