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Swan Lake.

Who would have thought that the mighty Bolshoi Ballet--were talking the genuine article here, not one of its widely disputed "Stars of..." facsimiles--would play to near-empty theatres on a woebe-gone tour of Las Vegas (really) and Los Angeles? Surely not anyone who witnessed the 221-year-old company's 1959 debut at the cavernous Shrine Auditorium, then totally sold out of its 6,300 seats. And surely not the well-meaning but misguided presenters of this occasion--a group of oil-rich Oklahomans calling their amateur outfit Russian Legends; they drummed up only the puniest business, even with papered houses, discounted tickets, and "1-888-BOLSHOI" as a toll-free number.

Needless to say, a stellar event doesn't jibe with an ocean of vacant seats. Trying to blot out the atmospheric blight was like being in a bad dream.

But the dancers were happy to have the nightly performance opportunities at full pay. And they turned out to be, not surprisingly, a sight for sore eyes. No matter Yuri Grigorovich's tacky, oddly patched-together Swan Lake; everyone, down to the merest coryphee, had an ingrained sense of style. Carriage of shoulders, arms, and hands telegraphed a depth of nobility and elegance that others often try, but fail, to simulate. And unanimous, balanced corps maneuvers of stunning fluidity and exactitude were very much still the Bolshoi's hallmark.

The principals, though, were not uniformly remarkable. Considering the intracompany tumult of the past seven years, not to mention Russia's change to capitalism, its subsequent dropping of government support, and the departure of Semanyaka, Ananiashvili, Mukhamedov, and others, for solo careers, that may not be surprising. The toll of these harsh circumstances shows in their young replacements. Nadezhda Grachova, for instance, bore all the textbook attributes--perfect line, physical symmetry, surpassing suppleness and turnout, articulate expression. But little affect emanated from her Odette, certainly no pathos to speak of. And as Odile she found only the flash of bravura, nothing subtly neforious motivating her seductiveness. Of the other Swan Queen, Galina Stepanenko, similar things were observed (here and in a new Don Quixote, which I missed).

It was in the department of male principals where changes were most noticeable. Although Vladimir Vasiliev heads the company in these post-Grigorovich days (since 1995), there seems to be no one like him or Maris Liepa or Mukhamedov dancing anymore--the unstintingly heroic, dashing romantics of a time past; only a few blazing character dancers like Mikhail Sharkov, whose thrilling virtuosity and physical boldness wed to a characterful plastique, could define a role like the Jester. On this visit the danseurs nobles, the Siegfrieds and Jameses (La Sylphide) were danseurs manques. Tall, gorgeously built with their long, straight limbs, they strutted somnolently and woke up only for their solos.

Grachova's usual partner, Andrei Uvarov, fits this description to a tee, and his weak bearing found its complement in a certain adenoidal, slack-jawed look. Have virility and passion gone out with communism, A general disregard for dramatic coherence could also be seen in the many bows taken mid-act, and the half-asleep, note-spinning orchestra.

But the misty opening scene of La Sylphide, staged by Elsa Marianne von Rosen and Kirov director Vinogradov came across as the perfect tableau of romantic reverie that it can be. What followed was less creditable but no one could fault Grachova's impeccable portrayal of the Sylph-a startling embodiment of a nineteenth-century print captured through her moves, postures, poses, and hands and compromised only somewhat by a missing vulnerability.

The big news, however, came in the fact that Bournonville's ballet was having its first Bolshoi staging in the U.S.--proof that dance now resides in a global village, but also that what grows within the blurring borders might have relinquished its virtue.
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Title Annotation:Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA
Author:Perlmutter, Donna
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Feb 1, 1997
Previous Article:Oakland Ballet, Paramount Theatre, Zellerbach Hall, Sep. 27-Nov 17, 1997.
Next Article:Swan Lake.

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