David Wilcox recently changed the name of his company to Los Angeles Classical Ballet but it might be more accurately called Les Ballets Russes de Long Beach. Not since Mikhail Baryshnikov attempted to turn American Ballet Theatre into Little Leningrad have so many Soviet ballet artists dominated a U.S. company.
Yes, the Soviet Union is gone, but Soviet ballet remains a distinctive 20th-Century style--with dancers trained in that style receiving unique artistic concessions from Wilcox in the "Nutcracker" performance given Thursday at Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
Consider the truncated ending of the solo danced by former Bolshoi artist Alla Khaniashvili Artyushkina as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Or the grotesque tempo distortions in the solo danced by her husband, Vitaly Artyushkin, as the Nutcracker Prince.
Performed, for once, by genuine Slavs, the Trepak reached nearly twice its normal length through a deftly spliced repeat. However, a bombastic insert from "The Queen of Spades" nearly wrecked the Waltz of the Snowflakes in seeking to provide more dancing for Moscow Classical Ballet guest Vladimir Malakhov.
These sins against Tchaikovsky--and those committed by the Joffrey Ballet across town--are worth listing because they represent the arrogance and insensitivity that caused major composers to avoid ballet for nearly a century. Can't Wilcox serve Malakhov best by finding new opportunities within this beloved 99-year-old score?
When Wilcox's "Nutcracker" opened at the Long Beach Terrace Theater early in December, Malakhov danced the Nutcracker Prince. His appearance in the Snow scene Thursday, opposite the radiant, womanly Galina Shlyapina (Moscow State Ballet), established Soviet style as the prevailing classical language long before the audience saw the Artyushkins.
Unfortunately, the choreography remained so unfocused that, even with the musical insert, Malakhov seemed forever rushing across the stage and out, leaving behind the afterimage of one immaculately executed step. Shlyapina found even fewer chances, but a series of turns displayed her technical sheen.
More than ever, the Artyushkins made an odd couple on the dance floor. He again demonstrated great security as a partner but looked rough and even slovenly as a soloist. However, she proved meticulous to the point of being finicky.
As Dewdrop, Lisa Street seemed more comfortable as the official Candyland hostess than as the glittering centerpiece of the Waltz of the Flowers. Promising but not yet technically consistent.
The other company principals and soloists were reviewed at the Long Beach opening, but Dudley Davies' addled coot of a Drosselmeyer deserves mention if only because his vigorously executed collage of mannerisms contrasts so sharply with the benign visionary that is Daniel Baudendistel's Drosselmeyer in the Joffrey version.