East will meet West in an intriguing collaboration, when soloists of the Bolshoi and Kiev Ballets join the Ballet of Los Angeles at the Capitol Theater on Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Their program will consist of choreographies by George Balanchine and John Clifford, artistic director of the Ballet of Los Angeles.From the Bolshoi Ballet come prima ballerina Alla Khaniashvili-Artiushkina (never complain again about the length of American women's hyphenated names) and Vitaly Artiushkin. These are the same dancers who created a stir last fall in Ogden, soloing with the Moscow Classical Ballet. Khaniashvili was born in Tblisi, trained in Moscow, and has won medals for her dancing, including Varna and a 1981 gold at the Moscow International Ballet Competition.
From the Kiev Ballet come principal dancers Evgenia Kostyleva and Anatoli Kucheruk, both medal winners at the Varna International Ballet Competition and elsewhere. The four touring Soviet soloists are married couples.
Besides pas de deux, the Russians will dance in "Allegro Brillante," Balanchine-Tchaikovsky, with members of the Ballet of Los Angeles; and "Verdi Pas de Quatre," a satire on Russian ballet by Clifford.
The Ballet of Los Angeles, re-organized in 1987 and consisting of 16 dancers, will perform "Notturno" by Clifford-Schubert; "Fantasies," Clifford-Vaughan Williams; and "Bolero," Clifford-Ravel.
The unsinkable John Clifford, reached at his home in Los Angeles, discussed the program, the Russians, and prospects for his resurrected Ballet of Los Angeles (formerly Los Angeles Ballet, 1974-85).
"`Bolero' is very much me; it's en pointe, with a lot of fleetness, incorporating the tango movement I learned in Buenos Aires. My `Fantasies' is now 20 years old, and it's been in the repertory of some company, in America, or abroad, ever since its premiere," he said. "You will also see Allegra Kent, associate director of the BLA and a veteran Balanchine dancer, who still dances beautifully.
"We are about midway in 20 tour appearances with the Russian soloists, and it's been great," he said. "People ask me, what are the problems, and I have to reply, there aren't any. They are very eager to learn the Balanchine style, they are starving for new choreography. They have adapted very well to the `Allegro,' and the `Pas de Quatre,' which contains a lot of Balanchine technique. They fit comfortaby into new situations, their attitude is fabulous.
"The only thing is, they are used to the exaggerated Russian way. I asked them if they would mind doing a spoof of the Bolshoi before I choreographed `Pas de Quatre,' and they didn't at all. They have a great sense of humor, but they go over the top sometimes, I have to hold them back. When I told them to use the restraint of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, they immediately understood what was needed."
Clifford is elated that the Russians like his company best of any they have performed with in America, and they don't want to leave.
"We are negotiating with their companies, and they may be able to stay a year," he said. "It would be a great opportunity for them because our company class and training is very Balanchine, it's very usable, but they need time to understand and master the technique.
"Balanchine left Russia as a young man, so his technical basis was classical Russian, but he went a different way. Sometimes in class the soloists will recognize a step and say, that's Russian, but we don't use it any more."
The Soviets want to take Clifford and his company to Europe and back home to tour if possible. Clifford thinks prospects are good. "We are a small company, not expensive, based in Balanchine, and Russians everywhere are excited about Balanchine," he said.
A Los Angeles native, Clifford did more than 40 roles as a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, many of them created on him by Balanchine or Jerome Robbins. He was also a resident choreographer, creating ballets for NYCB and other national companies.
After forming his Los Angeles company, Clifford created 50 ballets for it, and mounted many dances on prominent ballet companies all over the country. He is glad to have a Los Angeles company again, and feels no threat from touring companies such as Joffrey and American Ballet Theatre that have invaded his territory.
"Those companies do only seasons in Los Angeles," he noted, "in all styles of ballet. My style is uniformly classic, with an American tilt, and considerable humor. We are a moderate-sized ensemble that can tour readily. We had a successful national tour of 28 cities in 1988, with excellent reception and critical praise."
During the years that his company was disbanded, Clifford was far from idle. He traveled the world, setting Balanchine's and his own ballets. "You must be authorized by the Balanchine estate to do his works, and they call me, I don't call them," he said. Ports of call have been the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Ballet de Monte Carlo, Ballet du Nord, Zurich, Rome Opera Ballet, Caracas and Britain's Royal Ballet, among others.
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