The Kirov Ballet of Leningrad, or at least a significant contingent thereof, helped Glassboro State College celebrate a 20th anniversary on Sunday night by performing a mixed program at the Hollybush Festival.
This event is named after the campus house where, 20 years ago next month, then-superpower leaders Lyndon B. Johnson and Alexei N. Kosygin held their small-town summit meetings.
With its only other U.S. appearance in Chicago next week (on an otherwise all-Canadian tour), the two-program Kirov engagement in Glassboro represented something of a coup, one christened an "Artistic Summit" by festival director Veda Zuponcic.
However, the ultimate Kirov experience was compromised by the limitations of recorded musical accompaniment and by the confines of a rather shallow stage, though it was otherwise enhanced by the rewarding proximity of audience to artists in this less-than-1,000-seat concert hall.
Though only the flyer and the ads identified this assemblage of 37 dancers with a "Stars of" qualifier (in very small print), there was good reason to accentuate such a claim in the program.
In addition to most of the leading dancers who headed the company on last year's North American tour, this concert group included two notable additions: senior artist Irina Kolpakova, who toured but did not perform in 1986 because of post-operative convalescence, and Farouk Ruzimatov, a young artist listed for the last tour but who was not allowed to make the trip.
(John Cripton, president of the tour's producing organization, described Ruzimatov's presence this time as "the luck of the draw," explaining that "these things happen all the time," referring to the changes and surprises he and his Canadian group accept in such deals for Soviet bookings.)
Kolpakova, who led the cast of "Chopiniana," the program's opener, remains a treasure of Kirov artistry. Though her actual muscle power is greatly diminished (she is 54), her abilities to shape and sustain a dance phrase remain strong and her performing is at once grand and delicate.
Ruzimatov, who closed the program's middle segment as the Pirate in the pas de deux from "Le Corsaire," has a positively lean and hungry look. His lankiness gives him the reach and plasticity of live-wire attenuation. His eagerness, centered in his sunken but fiery eyes, betrays a hunger not merely to entertain, but to conquer an audience.
Because Ruzimatov is as outgoingly impetuous as Kolpakova is inwardly serene, he found the restrictions of the stage a noticeable hindrance, and thus gave only a hint of his likely capabilities.
His well-matched partner, Tatiana Berezhnaya (known by her maiden name, Terekhova, on the last tour), showed what seasoned performing can mean when she batted a wing piece out of her way in an effort to get more room on stage for her space-eating jumps in "Paquita," the program closer.
With two opposite but equally riveting performances (one as the smoldering tragedienne in "Esmeralda" pas de six, the other as a radiant "Paquita" soloist), Altynai Assylmuratova, who graced only Los Angeles and Vancouver last year with her "Swan Lake," showed how much a singular Soviet artist can grow and glow in a year's time.
In contrast, the unsuperlative Galina Mezentseva was relegated to only one appearance on this program, suggesting that touring the United States is having a very real effect on Kirov policy.
The enthusiasms for Kolpakova, Ruzimatov, Berezhnaya and Assylmuratova were quite palpable, even in a New Jersey audience almost more eager to gaze on Mikhail Baryshnikov in the audience than on the Kirov dancers on stage, so that by the time the company performs in this country again (not until '89 or '91, according to Cripton), the roster and the casting might well reflect American taste as much as Soviet policy--in part resulting from Glassboro's "Artistic Summit."