A summer of European ballet: Russians in Paris, Americans in London
For those who like stargazing, ballet-style, the places to be this past summer season were Paris, London, Rome, and the Italian center of Nervi.
* The Russians came to Paris in a prized visit by the Bolshoi's leading male dancer, Vladimir Vasiliev. He and a group of younger dancers were out to prove that recent concern about the Bolshoi's future is misplaced. Critics, including this one, were impressed.
* The Americans went to London with the late George Balanchine's New York City Ballet, drawing rave reviews with their own particular style. Exciting and alive, the company moved on to Copenhagen (where Queen Margrethe II conferred a knighthood on Balanchine's successor, Danish-born Peter Martins) and Paris.
* More Soviets from Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev turned up in Rome at the Theatro Tendastrisce. They were led by proven Bolshoi performers Vyacheslav Gordayev and his wife Nadezhda Pavlova. The dancers included Mikhail Lavrovsky, a veteran Bolshoi soloist who is a contemporary of Vasiliev and son of famous choreographer and dancer Leonid Lavrosky.
* At the Nervi festival, Noella Pontois from the Paris Opera Ballet Company and American Fernando Bujones danced the leading roles of the production of ''Sleeping Beauty'' by Cuban ballerina Alicia Alonso. Incidentally, the Paris Opera Ballet is about to be taken over by Rudolph Nureyev, replacing the veteran Rosella Hightower, who moves to La Scala.
Perhaps the most intriguing event of the season was the Bolshoi group here in Paris. Since the defections of Alexander Godunov and Valentina and Leonid Kozlov in 1979, the company has not been as frequently seen in the West.
This time, however, its younger dancers were in a chrysalis state. In a large company of 280 dancers, the opportunity to show their gossamer wings has come rarely, and there were reports of infighting and discontent.
Yet on the stage of the Theatre des Champs Elysees appeared not one young dancer of the future, but seven - led by three veterans: Vasiliev himself; his wife, Ekaterina Maximova; and Nina Timofeyeva.
Vasiliev - as director, choreographer, and dancer - produced a three-part program that showed the minicompany at work first in the ''classroom,'' then performing the expected classics, and finally in his own modern ballet set to Argentine music.
The first part was a choreographical tribute to famous Soviet ballerina Galina Ulanova, devised by Vasiliev and performed by dancers her teachings have moulded. Set in a mirrored dance studio with Vasiliev acting as ballet master, four tutued ballerinas took their places at the bar and began the daily ritual of warming up.
These basic exercises were performed as every would-be dancer dreams they should be: 90-degree leg extensions, supple plies with no rolling ankles, and a strength and control that carried legs ear-high from front to back with no half-way-round drooping.
The second part of the evening put into practice the technicalities learned in the dance studio. It was also the moment for the Bolshoi to show off its young stars: blond Andris Liepa (son of Bolshoi star Maris Liepa) and dainty but strong Irina Piatkina in an excerpt from ''Coppelia''; Alla Mikhailchenko and Valeri Anissimov in a section of the second act of ''Giselle''; saucy Nina Semizorova and daring Viktor Barikin in the pas de deux from the last act of ''Don Quixote.'' Another promising younger dancer, Alexei Fadeyechev, alternated with Liepa.
The final section of the evening was a new ballet by Vasiliev, a complete departure from the classic steps and music of expected Russian fare. ''Fragments of a Biography'' was danced to authentic tango rhythms that Vasiliev brought back from a visit to Argentina. It tells, in flashbacks, the life and loves of a dancer. Flapper girls of the 1920s, with headbands and tasseled skirts; blazered boys; dry-ice mists; robotlike actions; vamping; and cowboy hats all turned up in an unusual spectacle.
For London audiences, the New York City Ballet was a delight. Each member of the company, from Peter Martins down, showed an infectious exuberance. Each member danced with the dedication of a star, and the company shone both as a collection of individuals and as a splendid whole.
Such performances as ''Symphony in C'' and ''Mozartiana'' prompted The Times (London) critic John Percival to write: ''There is no single correct way of performing classical ballet, but (there are) various interpretations of a shared tradition. . . . Of all this century's choreographers, George Balanchine had the richest background, . . . the finest musical understanding, . . . the most unwavering and exigent vision. . . .''
Peter Martins, who is now turning to directing and choreography, said farewell to London as a dancer in the lyrical ''Davidsbundlertanze'' and the ''Symphony in C.''
In Rome, Soviet dancers performed pas de deux from ''La Fille Mal Gardee,'' among others. Critics said Lavrovsky danced with undiminished power and virtuosity in ''Diana and Acteon'' and in an excerpt from his father's version of ''Spartacus.''