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Houston’s Young Dancers Add Even More Sparkle to the Moscow Ballet’s Production of

Great Russian Nutcracker

General Editor: Margaret MacMillan

Publisher: Connie Kwan-Wong

The Moscow Ballet brought The Gift of Christmas Tour to the Smart Financial Center of Sugar Land for two awe-inspiring performances of the Great Russian Nutcracker on December 28, 2019. Lauded for outstanding performances by the company’s Principal Dancers; perfect Victorian-period costumes; gorgeous set design; and special effects, including a Christmas tree that grows to 50 feet before your eyes, the production is delightful entertainment for young and old alike.

An advocate of community engagement in the arts, Moscow Ballet holds annual auditions in the cities hosting the production so that students from the ages of six to 18, who have at least one year of balletic training, can be a part of the local performance. During the 2019 holiday period, 144  American cities were host cities.

Since 1993, over 75,000 American and Canadian dance students have performed side-by-side with 40 professionals in cities on the tour. The roles they are given have been developed for their age and skill level by coproducer of Moscow Ballet’s North American tours, Giannone Talmi. This extraordinary opportunity gives young performers the once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the joy of being onstage contributing to a thrilling audience experience with a professional ballet company.

Those who are selected to join the company for their city’s production become the Dance with Us cast. Dance with Us is a unique program created by Moscow Ballet. It gives young dancers the rare ability to audition for, and rehearse and perform with, an international touring ballet company. After the auditions in the host cities, audition directors rehearse with the children for several days. In Houston, the audition director was Moscow Ballet member Bogdana Kopiy. The host ballet studio then takes over and rehearses the dancers for six to eight weeks before the performance. The roles of the Dance with Us cast are: Party Children, Small Mice, Little Snowflakes, Snow Sprites, Snow Maidens, Spanish Variation, Arabian Variation, Chinese Variation, Russian Variation, and French Variation.

Houston’s host studio was the Mitsi Dancing School (MDS). Its director, Jia Ma, was thrilled to support the students’ dreams of taking part in a professional experience alongside such accomplished performers. One of the fastest growing dance schools in Houston, MDS trains over 600 students in three full-sized studios in the Houston, Katy, and Sugar Land area. Its professional and dedicated teachers offer high quality training in ballet, modern dance, Chinese dance, and many other dance genres. The studio was the national quarter finalist in America’s Got Talent in 2013 and Regional Top 12 at the Young America Grand Prix competition in 2018. MDS also offers American Ballet Theatre's National Training Curriculum exams for students age five and up. Together with its not-for-profit dance company, Movements In Time, MDS offers intensive dance technique training, choreography of original dance programs, and the opportunity to perform with some of the world’s best dance companies helping talented young dancers take their dance skills to the next level.

Zoe Wong, the daughter of CKW LUXE publisher, Connie Kwan-Wong, has been a student at MDS since she was three years old. She took on the role of one of the Little Snowflakes who appeared in Act I in the Houston production. A natural onstage, Zoe had a wonderful time dancing with her fellow students, wearing a Moscow Ballet costume, and being part of such a magical experience.

The weeks of preparation for all the local performers was well worth it. Their addition to a holiday staple made the much-anticipated performance a particular treat for all who saw it.

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