After a number of tours by Russian dancers, amounting to an inundation in some seasons, Americans have lost their naivete. Audiences have come to accept the fact that even from the cradle of classical ballet, all Russian dancers are not necessarily equal.
But the Stars of the Soviet Ballet, a group of ten principal dancers that includes four married couples from an equal number of major Russian companies, is without doubt worthy of the status they claim. All are artists of the first order - indeed, the all-round best touring soloists I have seen out of Russia - who invest sometimes overly familiar works with magic, even miraculous movement.As always the men were full of tricks and individuality, red-blooded dancers who seemed to revel in their technical accomplishments. But as has not always been the case, the women matched them in strength, individuality and personality. And in a day when few American ballerinas have such endurance, three of the women did 32 fouettes with seeming ease.
Shamil Yagudin, ballet master of the Bolshoi Ballet, heads the tour, with the estimable Nina Semizorova and Mark Peretokin of the Bolshoi as leading dancers.
As they demonstrated in a splendid opening pas de dix from "Raymonda," all 10 dancers can do anything in the way of lifts, balances, jumps, spins, or whatever. But the long-limbed and elegant Semizorova (a protege of Ulanova) seized the initiative as Raymonda, with moonlit, silvery grace, dependable strength, and a charm both warm and regal. Peretokin, her husband-partner, is a tall handsome blond with a fine physique and commanding presence, who recently won a gold medal at the Moscow National Ballet Competition.
Semizorova continued her conquest with an exquisite Rose Adagio from "Sleeping Beauty," in which she triumphantly surmounted every difficulty of the supported turns en pointe. Likewise she tossed off the concluding grand pas de deux from "Don Quixote" with nonchalance, and a fair degree of Spanish elan. And though she eschewed the usual coquetry with the fan, she spun her way confidently through 32 fouettes. Her partner, Viktor Yeremenko of Kiev, set the right tone, but has not yet completely mastered the requisite gypsy bravura.
"The Flames of Paris," a flamboyant, hybrid choreography, gave Anatoli Kucheruk, a power-packed slim dancer with flowing hair, the exact vehicle he needed for some daredevil stunts, partnering the dainty Evgenia Kostyleva, who also tossed off 32 fouettes, some of them while traveling across stage.
Tatyana Beletskaya capped off a light and strong "Corsaire" pas de deux with yet another 32 turns, stunningly partnered by Peretokin. And Inna Dorefeyeva from Donetsk made a charming, wistful Giselle in the pas from Act II, ethereal and feather-light, gallantly partnered by her husband, Vadim Pisarev.
Perhaps the more filled with technical challenges because of its character nature was the pas de deux from "Notre Dame de Paris," obviously referring to Victor Hugo's Hunchback, which Valdimir Djuluhadze danced from a half-stooping position, with Irma Nioradze, both of the Tbilisi Ballet.
"The Swan of Tuonela" with music by Sibelius offered a different sort of swan, making a bob in the direction of "modern" ballet, though the contrived-looking choreography frequently made awkward acrobatic demands on the dancers.