Russian danseur make his London debut - as Kremlin watches
A young, talented Russian dancer, a member of the Bolshoi Ballet Company, made his debut here in England recently as a guest of the London Festival Ballet Company. His four appearances in ''Giselle'' were of immense interest: not only because they gave British audiences a view of the splendid technique achieved after years of state-supported specialized training, but also because this young man was appearing without the official blessing of the Bolshoi - and thus the state.
Vladimir (Volodia) Derevianko was one of the favorites of Bolshoi audiences, and his progress in the company was keenly observed - until last year when he married a foreigner.
The Soviet government had a problem. What do you do with ''special'' citizens in this case? Do you allow them freedom to come and go - and won't everyone hasten to get a foreign spouse? Or do you insist that they stay put while their partners travel back and forth?
The problem, it seems, has solved itself, although perhaps not in the official way that protocol demands - more like the stuff that romantic dreams are made of.
Volodia's Italian wife, Paola Belli, is a ballerina with the Rome Opera Ballet Company. She met her future husband when, as an exchange student, she spent a year at the famous Moscow Choreographical School where Volodia was training. He graduated and began to make a name for himself, and the two met up again and were married in Moscow in early 1983.
Paola had to return to work in Rome. However, all was not lost: The Bolshoi had plans for an Italian tour that summer - but Volodia's name was not on the list. A loud protest was made, and he was finally included.
When the tour was over and the Bolshoi returned to Moscow, Volodia was not with them. He had stayed in Rome with his wife.
Volodia is obviously very cautious about questions as to his present status, since he still has relatives living in Moscow. ''Of course I can go back - I haven't defected,'' he told me in London last winter when we literally bumped into each other at the Royal Opera House.
I had been one of those Bolshoi observers who had keenly watched his progress: his first appearance in 1977 in the choreographical school's graduation concert; his light-footedness and flying airborne jetes; his medals from the competitions at Varna and Moscow; his lively Mercutio in Grigorovich's ''Romeo and Juliet''; and perhaps his most famous character role, in the Vassiliev ballet ''These Charming Sounds.'' Here Volodia was the Marcel Marceau-like butterfly chaser: In the final moments as he tries to net the butterfly, he bends over and lifts one leg in slow motion in a very controlled and exceptional arabesque, until it makes a straight line from the top toe way down to the heel of the supporting leg.
With the Bolshoi, however, he was dancing on average only once a month; he wanted more, and a chance to show the West what he could do.
He got that opportunity here in London recently, although it was a less-than-ideal role.
Volodia's brilliance lies in the attack, neatness, and bravura of his roles, although these combined with his slight build and fine features make him better suited as a character than a romantic hero. This was very obvious in his Albrecht of the London Festival Ballet's ''Giselle,'' whose version by Mary Skeaping required relatively little dancing but a great deal of mime.
Consequently, the effect was not as dynamic as one might have hoped. No one could fault his technique, his landings that were always neatly placed, his beats that were firm and regular, and his effortless leaps. But too often he found himself alone on stage, wandering and not dancing. And Albrecht needs a presence like that of Nureyev, Baryshnikov, or Vassiliev to convey majesty and power in those still moments. Volodia is best when attacking.
To his credit, he danced the role with great commitment and dedication, especially since it was his first time as Albrecht (he had always danced the complicated peasant pas de deux at the Bolshoi). And he had to learn the new-to-him Skeaping choreography in a week. But it would have made a greater impact here - both with the press and the public - had his debut been one that showed off his quicksilver action. It would be good to see him as the Bluebird in ''Sleeping Beauty,'' as Colas in ''La Fille,'' or in any work by Bejart, Kylian, Tetley, Cranko, or Balanchine.
Officially, Moscow expects him to return. Meanwhile, Volodia is off working on a ballet-oriented cruise, learning English, and awaiting the new season.