Bolshoi loss is BTA gain as Tuboltsev joins ballet 'Dracula': Dancer Dmitry Tuboltsev says speaking English is his biggest challenge in performing here, but fellow BTA dancer Natasha Kirjanov is helping the "Count" with translations.

October 16, 1997|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It's a good thing Natasha Kirjanov remembered the Russian she thought she had forgotten.

Kirjanov dances the role of Mina in Ballet Theater of Annapolis' "Dracula," a full-length story ballet that opens this weekend at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. The title role is danced by a former member of the Bolshoi Ballet, and he speaks only a little English.

So Kirjanov is also translating for Dmitry Tuboltsev, who portrays the Transylvanian count.

Though she says her Russian is nothing special, Kirjanov -- born in Massachusetts and the daughter of Russian emigres -- adds that translating is helping her regain fluency.

On a given day, she might rehearse with him, talk him through a newspaper interview and take him to the chiropractor.

Tuboltsev, 32, has been in the United States since May, and it's easier for him to communicate in his native language.

Slight and wiry, with a shock of brown hair and sleepy brown eyes with long lashes, he curled up on a corner of a sagging couch recently at the BTA offices in Maryland Hall, with Kirjanov translating.

He was born in 1965 in Alma-Ata, the capital of what is now Kazakstan. When he was 10, the Soviet ballet system found him through the system it used to ensure its supremacy in ballet and folk dance. During its 70-year history, the Soviet regime sent scouts around the Soviet Union to test children for aptitude in dance. They measured youngsters to find those with ideal body proportions, tested them for flexibility in the hips and checked such indicators as jumping ability, coordination and attentiveness to music.

After his elementary training, "Dema" Tuboltsev was accepted at 17 by the Vaganova Academy in Leningrad, whose members feed into the Leningrad Kirov Ballet.

After graduating at 19, Tuboltsev could not get a work permit for Leningrad, so he returned home and danced for four years with the Kazakstan National Ballet.

In 1990, he went to the Bolshoi in Moscow and joined the company-within-a-company of younger dancers directed by artistic director Yuri Grigorovich. After Grigorovich had a falling-out with the Bolshoi administration, his company was disbanded. Tuboltsev joined the Moscow Theater Russian Ballet in 1995.

In May, he came to Philadelphia on a three-month visa to teach at a festival sponsored by Philadelphia Ballet Theater. Hoping to stay in the United States, Tuboltsev went to Pittsburgh, where a Russian friend had joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, only to find the season already in progress and no dancer contracts available. And his visa had expired.

"A friend called me," said BTA's artistic director, Edward Stewart, "and said this guy was here and needed a job."

Not only did BTA need male dancers, but it wanted a very good male dancer for Stewart's long-planned "Dracula."

Of course, there was a little culture shock to go through when they discussed salary : "He asked for double what I make," said Stewart, laughing.

Tuboltsev didn't get it. But he did get a partner who speaks Russian.

Tuboltsev plans to spend the season in Annapolis. His plans after that are unclear.

He'd like to stay in this country, though the life of a dancer is chancy here at best. There's not much of the former Soviet system left -- it took care of dancers from training through retirement -- and the arts have fallen on hard times. Dancers, once securely bound to companies, now "job" with many troupes, Tuboltsev says.

"When he's asked about life here," Kirjanov says, "he uses a Russian word that means 'grammatical.' The best way I've found to translate it is 'logical' or maybe 'structured.' "

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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