Russian ballerina dances and is honored in Boston festival
An unusual tribute to Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya climaxed the dance portion of the ``Making Music Together'' festival Sunday night at the Wang Center. As galas go, this performance was warmly personal and varied in style. Famous personages read telegrams from other famous personages. There were a few of the obligatory show pieces: ``Spring Waters,'' the flamboyant capsule bacchanale, with the exuberant young Bolshoi dancers Inna Petrova and Leonid Nikonov; the Grand Pas de Deux from ``Don Quixote,'' in Alexander Gorsky's choreography with principals Alla Artiushkina and Viktor Barykin; Marius Petipa's Pas de Deux from ``Raymonda,'' with Bolshoi stars Nina Ananiashvili and Andris Liepa; and Artiushkina and Vitaly Artiushin in a duet from ``Spartacus,'' in the contemporary Soviet style of Bolshoi artistic director Yuri Grigorovich.
There were also appearances by Miss Plisetskaya herself, in ``La Rose Malade,'' partnered by Boris Yefimov, and Michel Fokine's ``Dying Swan,'' originally choreographed for Anna Pavlova, an affecting, appropriate finale for the long evening.
One interesting departure from the customary gala routine was the interlacing of film clips between the dances, to show the 62-year-old in a range of her famous roles. She jumped and flirted outrageously in ``Don Quixote,'' glided almost bodilessly in a Bach ``Prelude,'' impersonated Isadora Duncan in Maurice B'ejart's stirring vignette to the ``Marseillaise,'' was a distraught soldier's wife in Leonide Jacobson's version of ``Spartacus,'' and a fiery gypsy ballerina in ``Raymonda.''
Plisetskaya has not had the career of any average domesticated ballerina. One of the first international stars of the post-revolutionary period, she has made guest appearances in the West since the '60s and worked with some of the most individual artists outside the Soviet Union. She established an identification with American modern dancers last fall when she learned Ruth St. Denis's famous 1906 solo ``The Incense'' for a gala with the Martha Graham company. In return, Graham bestowed one of her dances on this program, the 1947 psychological duet ``Errand Into the Maze,'' compellingly performed by Terese Capucilli and Kenneth Topping.
Besides ``Errand,'' the most momentous dancing on this program was a complete ``Apollo.'' Mikhail Baryshnikov, who dances less and less frequently these days, brought Susan Jaffe, Christine Dunham, and Leslie Browne from his American Ballet Theatre, and the New York City Ballet's chief conductor, Robert Irving, to offer this classic from the hand of probably the greatest Russian-American of them all, George Balanchine. Baryshnikov is not the most classical Apollo I've ever seen, but he is surely the most human. Perhaps it was seeing his playful, virile interpretation again that made me think how Balanchine's choreography gives full play to danciness, through the ample use of diagonal pathways and body shapes, and how he built an endearing humanness into the tender, even intimate gestures of Apollo with the muses.
Baryshnikov added the one surprise contribution to the program with the ``One for My Baby'' section of Twyla Tharp's ``Sinatra Suite.'' It seemed the most natural, friendly, and spontaneous thing for him to come out, read congratulatory messages (concluding with one from Sinatra himself), then stroll center stage, loosen his tie, doff his jacket, and begin to dance.
Plisetskaya has not been one of those unapproachable, icy assolutas. She maintains an active involvement in the international dance world. In the past season, she taught classes in New York in addition to leading the festival's ballet arrangemements and dancing for Graham. She has also become identified with choreographic subjects centering on literary heroines.``Anna Karenina,'' which Plisetskaya choreographed along with Natalia Rizhenko and Victor Smirnov-Golovanov, turned out to be an exposition of her present talents - a strong balance, an artful use of body plastique, and a passionate acting style. The three-act ballet, to music of Rodion Shchedrin, offered little dancing interest besides that.
Boiled down to a series of lovelorn encounters between Anna and Bronsky (Yefimov), stolen under the noses of a jaded aristocracy, Tolstoy's monumental tragedy becomes a spectacle of staging and histrionics. Opulently dressed ladies and gentlemen assembled in front of a ramp decorated with a succession of elaborate mises-en-scene - a street, a drawing room, a race-track pavilion, even an opera complete with singers. Society surges to and fro in formal indifference. The lovers yearn and are parted. Anna's husband (Barykin) wrings his hands. Torn between lover and husband and child, Anna anguishes. Finally, darkness, strobe lights, and an orchestral train bearing down out of the distance, and oblivion.