In the old days, a program called "Stars of the Ballet" was an instant groaner.
It usually meant that a couple of aging dancers who needed money in the off season would capitalize on their name recognition by going on the road, sometimes accompanied by a group of girls from the corps de ballet who had nothing better to do for the next few months.
But the "Stars of the Kirov Ballet," coming next week to the Naval Academy as part of the Vice Admiral Eliot Bryant and Miriam Bryant Distinguished Artists Series, really are stars.
With the value of the ruble at an all-time level of unreliability, the Russians can barely afford to tour their major companies, the Bolshoi and the Kirov. In consequence, many of their best dancers have hooked up with American entrepreneurs to keep dancing, earn a living and maintain the bravura reputation of Russian ballet.
Repertory of excerpts
That's how this tour came into existence.
The women are led by the fragile Zhanna Ayupova, a definitive Giselle, and Yulia Makhalina, whose signature role is Princess Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty." They are joined by colleagues Veronika Ivanova and Margarita Kulik, as well as newer dancers Diana Vishneva and Anastasia Volochkova.
The men, equally outstanding, include Konstantin Zaklinsky and Vladimir Kim.
But the real supernova of the troupe is Farukh Ruzimatov, the kind of dancer who leaves contrails. Dance critics refer to him as Farukh Razzamatazz for his dizzying barrel turns and breathtaking elevation, and all these are on display in the "Corsaire" pas de deux, which he will dance with Vishneva.
The repertory is all excerpts, but they include some of ballet's great moments: the "White Swan" pas de deux from "Swan Lake" (Makhalina and Zaklinsky or Volochkova and Ilia Kuznetsov); a duet from "Sheherazade" by Mikhail Fokine (Makhalina and Zaklinsky or Ayupova and Sergei Vikharev); and a duet from "Le Papillon" ("The Butterfly"), made by the first real ballerina, Marie Taglioni, for her protege, Emma Livry, to music of Offenbach. Livry died when a gas footlight set her costume on fire a few months later.
Rarely seen works
Also to be performed is a sampler of the kinds of works that rarely leave Russia, including "Arlequinada" and "Venice Carnival" from "Satanilo," both to be performed by Kulik and Kim, and the "Pas d'Esclave" (Slave's Dance). All these were choreographed by Marius Petipa, founder of the company.
Another curiosity is "Diana and Actaeon," a heroic pas de deux by the man who led the rival Bolshoi Ballet into the Soviet era, Alexander Gorsky. This duet is a free-standing piece lifted from the ballet "Esmeralda," based (very loosely) on "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
Besides "Corsaire," Ruzimatov and Vishneva also will dance an excerpt from "Carmen," whose music comes from the opera by Bizet. It was rescored and arranged for ballet by the Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin as a vehicle for his wife, the great ballerina Maya Plisetskaya.
Stars of the Kirov Ballet
When: 7: 30 p.m. Nov. 6
Where: Bob Hope Performing Arts Center, Alumni Hall, Naval Academy, 675 Decatur Road, Annapolis
Pub Date: 10/30/97