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When Tchaikovsky was 50 years old, he was invited to compose a ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffman's Gothic fairy tale about a nutcracker and a mouse king. Little did he expect that the composition he spent the next year drafting would become a standard for ballet schools all over the world. This week, the Moscow Ballet brings their own version of The Nutcracker to Duke University on Nov. 26 at 1 p.m. While many young American girls dream of playing the signature role of Clara, the Moscow Ballet casts a grown woman for the part, and changes the theme of the story to focus less on innocence awakened than on the joys of falling in love and leaving childhood behind. The Great Russian Nutcracker (pictured) features 50 top Russian dancers, 450 intricate costumes and a gorgeous set. Tickets start at $18. For more information, call 684-4444.

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