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The Independent Culture
The Kirov Ballet are at the London Coliseum (0171-632 8300) 17 Dec to 4 Jan. pounds 12.50-pounds 49.50. Children half price with each adult at matinees (excluding balcony seats)

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! You may not be in the habit of booking for things six weeks in advance but if you have any intention of catching the Kirov Ballet's Christmas season at the London Coliseum you would do well to break the habit.

Not only can you book in advance; you can actually book to see the dancers you want. For years Russian companies have eschewed traditional courtesies like casting information, perhaps believing that audiences will be so grateful for anything Russian that they don't much care who they watch. This year for the first time the Kirov has issued provisional casting information. More exciting still is the fact that the company's prima ballerina Altynai Asylmuratova (right) is dancing six performances. Similar excitement will be generated by Igor Zelensky, last seen in London when he partnered Darcey Bussell at Covent Garden in Balanchine's Tchaikovsky pas de deux.

The great thing about the Kirov is that even without the stars, the wondrous precision of the corps de ballet is usually worth the price of a ticket. The Nutcracker provides a perfect vehicle for them in the shimmering choreography for the snow-flakes in the second act. All that and dancing rats.