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A photographer's salute: to Russia with love.

The exhibition in St. Petersburg last summer of some 120 dance photographs by the Russian-American Nina Alovert was a cultural event that marked a historic turning point for this most dance-conscious of cities. Alovert's collection is unique, not only in its scope but in its being without parallel in Russia's own archives. For many visitors to the St. Petersburg gallery--housed in four formal reception rooms of the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace--this exhibit was not just astonishing, it was a homecoming. The photographs were assembled by a North Carolinian, Virginia Morrow Minges, and by the St. Petersburg Municipal Cultural Center. Some two hundred guests, including politicians, representatives of the diplomatic corps, famous actors, and many friends, gathered for the June 20 opening; the exhibition ran through the end of July. Ballet dancers of the Maryinsky Theater gave a small concert as a sign of their respect.

A native of the city, Alovert majored in history at the university and was at the same time the most ardent of ballet fans. This love of dance led her to preserve on film what she saw; she became a good photographer who grew into an artist. By the 1960s she was working under contract to various theaters and her work was appearing regularly in the Soviet press, but her first loyalty was to ballet. One of the charms of this exhibition was the opportunity it offered St. Petersuburgers to see photos that preserve the art of Natalia Makarova, Alla Osipenko, Nikita Dolgushin, Sviatoslav Kusnetsov, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, among others.

Alovert had photographed Baryshnikov from his first steps on the Kirov stage until his defection in Canada, and she continued to do so in the U.S. after she emigrated there in 1977. The exhibition included more than a dozen pictures of him, dating mainly from his Kirov period: The unforgettable Giselle with Natalia Bessmertnova, his young and touching Daphnis, the playful Adam from Creation of the World, and the toreador in a TV film, Fiesta. (Alovert also wrote a very interesting book, Baryshnikov in Russia, published in the U.S. in 1984.) Russians viewing the exhibit were especially interested in photos of Baryshnikov's dance roles in the West, images that were largely unfamiliar to St. Petersburg.

The central place in the exposition was occupied by photographs of today's Maryinsky dancers. Over the years Alovert has photographed each new talent. I remember how she tried to convince the ballet world here several years ago that Yulia Makhalina had great creative potential. Time has proven Alovert correct--Makhalina is now the assoluta of the company. Each visitor to the exhibition who sees the photos of Makhalina, Zhanna Ayupova, Altynai Asylmuratova, Veronika lvanova, Farukh Ruzimatov, Andris Liepa, Konstantin Zaklinsky, or Dmitri Korneyev understands that they were taken by a photographer whose art is an expression of her love for the subject. In these portraits one sees the image of the new generation of the Maryinsky Theater, which successfully continues and develops the traditions of this renowned company.

As with many ballet photographers, Alovert is loyal to the black-and-white image, but she recently started to work in color. It is the color that captured the artistry of Makhalina in Legend of Love and Firebird, and of Liepa in Romeo and Juliet and Petrouchka. The Lilac Fairy, Uliana Lopatkina, cloaked in violet light, remains in my memory. These bright spots made the atmosphere of the exhibition even more festive.
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Title Annotation:Nina Alovert, St. Petersburg, Russia
Author:Degen, Arsen
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Biography
Date:Nov 1, 1994
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