Allegations of Russian collusion may have cast a spotlight on divisions in the political arena, but there's at least one stage where Russia and the US seem to be in step.
The Moscow Ballet is performing its "Great Russian Nutcracker" across the United States. It's the ballet company's 25th anniversary 'Nutcracker' tour following Glasnost -- the policy calling for increased artistic openness between the US and Russia after the end of the Cold War. And this performance of "The Nutcracker" differs from the traditional version.
There's no Sugar Plum Fairy here, but there is a Dove of Peace, a gift given to the principal character, Masha, during the Christmas party scene.
Moscow Ballet producer Akiva Talmi said Masha flies on "the wings of the Dove of Peace around the world seeking peace and harmony. She goes to France, Italy, Africa -- all around the world. And she finds peace and harmony through love."
To show its commitment to the theme of love and peace, the Moscow Ballet created the "Dance with Us" program where young ballet students in US cities audition, rehearse and perform with the famous Russian dancers.
Besides fostering greater cultural exchange between the two countries, the program gives the American children a once-in-a-lifetime experience -- and a glimpse behind the Russian ballet curtain.
Teachers 'very strict'
Ballet students Remie Goins and Grace Blomberg said they enjoyed rehearsing and performing with the dancers from the Moscow Ballet. Goins said she also realized the dancers work very hard to achieve perfection.
She had "teachers that were very strict" and she had to "work really hard," she said, adding that she wants to move to Russia to study ballet when she is older.
Moscow Ballet principal dancer Andrey Batalov is an "Honored Artist of Russia," and dancing in the United States has left a lasting impression on him. And Talmi said the Russian dancers have found the "openness and the happiness of American children" very contagious.
"There's a tremendous amount of misunderstanding through many, many years through poor politics. And truthfully culture has always been used as [a vehicle] of improving relations. My life in working with Russia has been about peace. And the Dove of Peace is our most successful character," he said.
Moscow Ballet hopes American audiences agree that the "Great Russian Nutcracker' does what politics can't always do -- it brings people together.