Ah, those Russians! In the beginning, we liked them. Then we didn’t. Then we did again. Then we didn’t. Then we did. Now, who knows? Politically, they’re in a mess – but who are we to talk about that? (For sure, no one will mistake ’em for Utah, but that’s yet another issue.) One thing is certain, however. When it comes to dancing Russian ballets, they’re hard to top, Bolshoi artistic intrigue or not. So for folks who need a rest-break from holiday preps (and there are such unfortunates – folks who aren’t ready yet), we recommend your choice of two prime performances of Nutcracker, both from the Mariinsky Theatre, both led by Valery Gergiev (who has conducted in Chapel Hill several times – and who has some political baggage of his own – to wit, Comrade Putin). The first, from 2012, has Gergiev conducting baton-less – the sound and video are impressive. It’s on YouTube here. The second, from 2007, has him less fidgety, using a stick (some of the time) – but the production is very, very strange. For that one, click here. There are much worse things to do over Christmas, even if we are mad at the Russians right now. Enjoy!

PS And for some commentary on all this from a veteran dancer, read this gem from Boston.