By Charmain Z. Brackett, Correspondent
Yuriy Kuzo knew he wanted to dance at the age of 6.
“I was inspired by Baryshnikov,” said Kuzo, 31, the Moscow Ballet audition director and soloist. “I saw him on television, and I understood this was the thing I wanted to do.”
The Moscow Ballet will be performing the “Great Russian Nutcracker” at the Miller Theater on Dec. 30.
It wasn’t long after seeing Baryshnikov in that television production of “Don Quixote” that Kuzo began taking ballet lessons. After graduating from high school, he attended the Lviv State College of Culture and Arts in the Ukraine, where he studied dance and choreography.
He’s performed numerous roles in productions such as “Don Quixote,” “Le Corsaire,” “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker.” He joined the Moscow Ballet in 2015.
“The Nutcracker” has its roots in Russia. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed the score, and Marius Petipa choreographed the original ballet in 1892. It’s based on the 1816 E.T.A. Hoffmann story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” While “The Nutcracker” is a holiday tradition for many and is performed by numerous ballet companies all over the globe, there are varied presentations of the tale.
“Our production has a huge influence of Russian legends on the story. You can see it on the stage,” Kuzo said.
There are six-foot-tall nesting dolls and 10-foot-tall puppets representing animals such as bears and elephants. These animals, plus a few mythical creatures like the unicorn, are elements of Russian folklore that have been woven into this production.
The “Great Russian Nutcracker” features a 50-foot-tall Christmas tree.
Kuzo calls the production the company’s “gift of Christmas.”
Also, different in the Moscow Ballet’s performance is the setting of Act 2. Many productions are set in the Land of the Sweets; however, the Moscow Ballet takes its audience into the Land of Peace and Harmony.
“You can only see this in the Moscow Ballet,” he said.
The Dove of Peace greets the audience in Act 2. The character is created by two dancers. Each dancer wears a 10-foot-long wing, giving the bird a 20-foot wingspan.
There are other birds in the land including a peacock, a phoenix and a dove.
The Moscow Ballet has three companies, each with 36 dancers, performing in 144 cities during the holiday season.
The Augusta performance will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 30. For ticket information, visit millertheateraugusta.com.