Ludmila Semenyaka is small but mighty. In her first performance of the local Bolshoi Ballet season, Sunday afternoon in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the distinguished Leningrad-trained ballerina refused to settle for the sweetly pallid lyric cliches that have up to now characterized the role of Rita in Yuri Grigorovich's athletic kitsch-spectacle, "The Golden Age."
Instead, Semenyaka created a thoughtful, courageous, deeply loving Rita, a woman fully aware of the implications of her actions, totally committed to her new relationship with a young fisherman, passionately defiant as her situation grew increasingly dangerous.
Remarkable in acting terms for moment-to-moment specificity of intent and reaction, Semenyaka's portrayal proved even more extraordinary in dance terms for luminous purity and refinement.
In the love duets, her supple, eloquent arms revealed profound but never static states of feeling. In the nightclub sequences, her drop-dead flair and impeccable sense of classic style added a new sheen to the tawdry acrobatic routines. In the dramatic chase scenes of the second act, the force and urgency of her jumps took the ballet beyond formula melodrama into the heroic dimension that has long been the Bolshoi's glory.
Unfortunately, she lacked a worthy partner on Sunday. As Boris, Andris Liepa executed his solos strongly and stylishly--though he declined to attempt many bravura steps that Irek Muhkamedov had danced when performing the role last week. But he handled Semenyaka roughly in the love duets (with effortful and occasionally precarious lifts) and bungled major demonstrations of the character's machismo : the brief fight with the nightclub goons, for instance.
In contrast with the two dancers who previously appeared in the role, Liepa was many inches deep in eye liner on Sunday and dressed in a revealing scoop-neck shirt unlike anything worn by anyone in the production except the corrupt villain. Combined with Liepa's coldly mannered acting, these oddities of makeup and costume turned the ballet's ideology upside down: This insular, glamorous Boris clearly belonged with the snooty capitalist decadents rather than with the unpretentious Communist workers.
As the ill-fated flapper Lyushka, Tatiana Golikova danced with an easygoing, amoral gaiety: a good-time girl drifting toward disaster. Capably performed, this low-key portrayal proved plausible enough until the scene where Lyushka had to explode with jealous fury. Alexei Lazarev again appeared as the evil Yashka.