World-renowned ballet troupe brings the Nutcracker to the Bronx

DEARDRA SHULER | 4/12/2011, 4:41 p.m.

Some of the most vital and athletic ballet dancers are those trained in Russia. The Moscow Classical Ballet started off as the "Young Ballet, the USSR State Choreographic Company," in 1966. This ballet troupe was established by the USSR Ministry of Culture and toured the Soviet Union as well as various countries performing classical ballet in its traditional form throughout the world. The holder of 15 gold medals in international competition and the winners of three prizes at the Paris Academy of Dance, the Moscow Classical Ballet earned the distinction of being one of the few Russian ballet companies still supported by the Russian government. Recently the troupe was granted the title "Academic Theatre," a prestigious title given to only a few top Russian ballet companies by the Russian government. Presently on tour in Brazil, the Moscow Classical Ballet is due to appear in the United States at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West, Bronx, NY, on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.

Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, under the directorship of Eva Bornstein, is a little-known rare jewel nestled on the campus of Lehman College, wherein theater goers can see outstanding entertainers and performances for less than what they would pay at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and other Manhattan performance venues. In fact, for the Moscow Classical Ballet's Nutcracker performance this Sunday, children can get tickets for $10 and can sit anywhere within the theater. This is the best bargain in town for parents seeking to introduce their children 12 years of age and under to culture and ballet. The Nutcracker is very kid-friendly and is a beautiful ballet for the entire family.

As an added bonus, this Sunday's performance will feature local students from the Bronx Dance Theatre, located at 585 E. 187th St. in the Bronx. These young children, ranging in age from 5 to 9, are mostly Black and Hispanic youngsters who are excited about having the opportunity to perform with the famous Russian dance troupe.

I had the opportunity to speak with the producer of the Moscow Classical Ballet, Robert Friedman, president of Robert Friedman Presents, a company that has worked with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the Prague Madrigal Antiqua, the Black Light Theatre of Prague and other musical ensembles and theater and dance companies. He co-produced the long-running romantic comedy "Talley's Foley" as well as Caryl Churchill's comedy "Cloud Nine," Neil Simon's "Biloxi Blues," A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters," and Gareth Armstrong's "Shylock."

Bringing international troupes to the United States can occasionally be difficult. "The American government is not very conducive to foreign exchange. The IRS is now charging 30 percent off the top of any foreign artists' fee. A 30-percent fee is pretty onerous because it does not reflect at all the profit, since ballet troupes performing in the United States are lucky to break even. With the dollar being so weak, foreign artists performing in the United States are already getting paid almost half the fee they would earn in their own country. Now people are reluctant to even come to America to perform which is very sad," remarked Friedman. "Nancy Pelosi helped get the Moscow Classical Ballet into the country. If it weren't for her, the tour may not have even happened. She was able to help us cut through the bureaucracy. Bringing the costumes and sets into the country is also another problem. However, to see the audience reaction makes it all worthwhile," chuckled the producer, who seems to love the business he is in.