Meet Lana Popova, who’s visiting Wilmington with the Moscow Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Lana Popova. (Courtesy Moscow Ballet)

WILMINGTON — The Moscow Ballet will perform their “Great Russian Nutcracker” at University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Kenan Auditorium next week. Port City Daily spoke to Svetlana Popova, ballerina and audition director for the Ballet.

Popova said she was excited, first and foremost, about working with children. As audition director, Popova oversees the selection of student dancers for the Ballet’s “Dance With Us” program.

“We are visiting so many cities,” Popova said, “each time the students are so talented. Some are 16 or 17, but some are very young. Seven or eight.”

The Ballet selects children and young adults from each of over 80 cities on their tour. Popova is responsible for making sure the student dancers have sufficient training to perform alongside the Russian leads.

Elizabeth Hester, owner and found of the Wilmington School of Ballet, said she has worked with the Moscow Ballet for 15 years. This year, Hester’s school also coordinated with Wilmington’s Providence Preparatory Academy; Hester visited the school to teach students to perform as snowflakes in Nutcracker. All together, 25-30 students will participate after being selected at auditions early in September.

“It is an amazing opportunity for local dancers to experience a professional company,” Hester said. “The company arrives and performs all in one day. Local dancers have to be ready to practice quickly on stage with professionals and then perform all in the same day.”

Popova was complimentary of Hester’s students. “We provide them costumes, and we work with them on choreography – obviously so important – but they have to dance well. And they really do,” she said.

The “Great Russian Nutcracker,” which is performed to Tchaikovsky’s full score, departs from the original libretto in replacing the second act – the Lands of Sweets of the Sugarplum Fairy – with an original choreography and settings in a piece that Ballet calls the “Land of Peace and Harmony.” The second act was part of the nascent international spirit coming out of former-Soviet republics – and especially Russia – as the Soviet Union was disassembled and restrictions began to lift.

Popova said the spirit of internationalism and unity is as important today as it was in 1993, when the Moscow Ballet began to tour for the first time.

“The second act explores different nations, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and French variations on the original dances. This is an important idea, that art and national culture can be shared peacefully. We are very excited to perform this for American audiences.”

Popova has also pursued social goals through art at home. In Russia, she wrote and directed a theatrical production to raise awareness about drug addiction and rehabilitation.

“It was very different than ballet, but it is an important issue,” she said, “it is very close to my heart.”

Popova worked with the Wilmington School of Ballet and Dance for next week’s performance.

“It will breathtaking,” Popova said.

The Moscow Ballet performs Tuesday, Nov. 22, at UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium. Tickets are available from the Moscow Ballet.


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