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.
“Ballet requires a lot of strength and endurance. It’s a young person’s profession. Generally the troupe members start around 18 years old. Women can stay in the profession into their 40s but the men usually retire in their 30s, although Mikhail Baryshnikov danced up until his 50s. All the lifting and leaps and bounds take their toll on the body,” stated the classical producer.
“The Nutcracker is one of the best ballets to take a child to,” said Friedman. “It has the rat king, mice, gun powder, soldiers, swans, and is just beautiful. These Moscow Classical Ballet dancers are beautiful, young, strong dancers with a great deal of vitality since the Russian training is the best in the world. The dancers attend dance class every day because dance is a very demanding profession. It’s a profession you must love,” he said of the troupe of 40 dancers.
The Moscow Classical Ballet will appear in New Jersey and then at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx. Parents are encouraged to take their children to this delightful performance since children 12 and under can see it for $10. For adults, ticket prices are $35, $30, and $25. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LehmanCenter.org or by calling the Lehman Center box office at 718-960-8833 Mondays through Fridays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Tuesdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m.) and beginning at noon on the day of the concert. Lehman Center is accessible by the 4 and D trains to Bedford Park Blvd. Parking is free.