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Vainonen's Nutcracker and the Bolshoi

Guest LizzyA

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Does anyone know whether the Vainonen Nutcracker migrated from the Kirov to the Bolshoi in 1939 and remained the standard version there until 1965? I read this in a Times Online review but cannot find a reference to this elsewhere. If it did, can you point me to your source? I really need to find some comprehensive ballet history books!


Thanks in advance.

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Try Selma Jeanne Cohen's International Encyclopedia of Dance. It's a little flaky on individual biographies, but on production histories, it's pretty good. I'm at work, and far from a set, but it's worth having. Use the Amazon banner on this page.

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From the Encyclopediare. Vainonen's version of Nutcracker:


"It was invariably in the repertory of all leading Soviet ballet companies and is still extant at some theaters."


That was the only reference I could find that it might have migrated to the Bolshoi after it appeared at the Kirov. Also that Grigorovich introduced a new version to the Bolshoi in 1966. I exhausted all the other books our public library system has on the subject without finding anything more specific. If anyone else has any idea if the Vainonen version was the main version used by the Bolshoi between 1939 and 1965 I'd really appreciate hearing from you!


Thank you!



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Mansur Kamaletdinov, former Acting AD of the Bolshoi(acting title because he refused to join the Communist Party), who trained at the Imperial Ballet School/Vagonova Choreographic Institute and was with the Kirov first now resides in Pittsburgh. He carries on the Vainonen version of the Nutcracker choreography. I studied it with him last November, and returned this past summer to work on character dance with him. At 82, he is an astounding man with a wealth of knowledge, not only about dance history but of how history of the 20th century affected dance and music around the world.


Check out his fascinating website:



Be sure to look at other offerings such as the Petipa variations seminar and the videos of his students. If his contact info is not on that site, I can get it for you, and you could ask him yourself as I know that he became Ballet Master of the Bolshoi in 1951.

Edited by tangerinetwist
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I think the original poster wondered if the Nutcracker migrated to the Bolshoi from the Kirov. The answer seems to be Yes. It was first performed by the Imperial Russian Ballet, it wasn't called the Kirov (until after 1934).


Balanchine’s Complete Stories of The Great Ballets has 8 pages on the Nutcracker. Balanchine said The Nutcracker was first presented at the Maryinsky Theatre, Dec. 17, 1892, choreography by Lev Ivanov. This correlates with Mansuer Kamaletdinov's recollections (Petipa falling ill) and regarding restaging by Vassily Vainonen later in 1934. Balanchine notes, the Nureyev version (1967) retained Vainonen’s The Prince’s variation in Act 2. Baryshnikov’s (1976) featured the “Snowflake” dance by Vassily Vainonen.


Since this all I could find, I have a question. Are most Nutcrackers derived from the original (Ivanov) with the Vainonen update? Mr. Johnson, do have any ballet history help for this?

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I had meant to add an interesting detail to my post. When I was attending Mr. Kamaletdinov's workshop this summer I asked him about how Nutcracker was performed in Soviet Russia during Communist rule when the outward recognition of the Christian holiday was prohibited? He told me that the ballet was performed at various times of the year, but that it was often danced around New Year's Day as celebration was allowed at that time though not religious in orientation.

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The Vainonen version of Shchelkunchik has little to do with the Ivanov except for the music.

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