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November 4, 2016
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April 5, 2000
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April 27, 1988
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Approved For Release 2000/08/11: CIA-RDP96-00792R000700530001-2 Maya Plisetskaya The Truth of Dance The Bolshoi Ballerina on Her Life and Her Art By Pamela Sommers Special to The Washington Post Prima ballerina assoluta?the phrase suggests an imperious danc- ing goddess who truly lives only when she inhabits a rarefied realm of swans, sylphs and theatrical may- hem. Yet here sits Maya Plisetskaya, the Bolshoi Ballet superstar whom many regard as the greatest balleri- na of the 20th century, chatting ani- matedly in her native Russian, look- ing perfectly at home perched on an armchair. At 62, her auburn hair trails down her back, framing a face that suggests both world-weary ele- gance and prim girlishness. She t wears an emerald-green taffeta blouse with a matching skirt deco- rated with snaking black lines, gar- ments that reveal a long, slender body kept in peak condition by daily class and regular performances. For unlike most ballerinas of her generation, Plisetskaya still dances. "I'm perfectly aware that, techni- cally speaking, I cannot do a great something to it, because I've had deal," she admits candidly through such success on this tour, such won- her interpreter and longtime friend, derful reviews, and the audience has Helen Atlas. "But a person of my age appreciated me so much." and experience can show n great The tour to which she refers be- deal of artistry. It's the emotional gan last month in Boston, when P11- impact that is much stronger than setskaya, joined by a troupe of Bol- Soviet ballerina Maya Plisetskaya. the technical one. And there must be SeerETSICAYA, D10, Col. 1 BY RIGN.UPSIO?THE WASHINGTON POST -Approved For Release 2000/08/11 ?ICIA-RDP96-00792R000700 0001-2 7`c7Y/ ./?2ev7 Plisetskaya in the Bolshoi Ballet production of "Swan, Lake." a a a u) a ;4&) dot ru WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27, 1988 . cEr a CD PLISETSKAYA, From D1 cy) ahoi associates, performed several of r signature works?Alberto Alon- lio's "Carmen Suite," Roland Petit's 4.a Rose Malade," her own "Anna - 3arenina" and "The Lady With a 'Small Dog," and her inimkable rendi- tion of "The Dying Swan." `--7. It was all a part of the "Making Mu- Together" festival, a Soviet-Ameri- an cultural extravaganza, orchestrat- al by Boston opera director Sarah gildwell and Plisetskaya's husband, islebrated Soviet composer Rodion Schedrin. The Bolshoi dancers have t completed a 12-city U.S. tour, and *ght, Plisetskaya will be at Lisner ditoriutn for the U.S. premiere of `Zdaya Plisetskaya: Things Known and a film portrait of the danc- being presented as part of Filtnfest g. She and the director, Boris Gal- ater, will take questions after the sEeening. um has served as both friend and o the ballerina. Though ballet afi- --cio ados may swoon over videos of *setskaya in her prime?her myste- tously lyrical/brilliantly venomous e in "Swan Lake," her mis- chievous Kitri in "Don Quixote," her bewitching Zarema in 'The Fountain of Bakhchisarai," her defiant Car- men?she has problems with her cin- ematic self. "I don't like my old films," she says. "I see a lot that isn't correct. It's very hard to please me. I'm very self- critical. Certainly, film is a very good thing, because it is of great assistance in your development, the best teach- er. But it is my nature never to do the same thing over and over again. I've always improvised, and listened to the music above all. And I've never gotten stuck in one particular style or era." She has also lived her life as a rebel, an independent-minded firebrand to whom art matters more than all else: country, family, personal freedom. And she has suffered for her convic- tions. Born in Moscow to a family of Jew- ish artists?her mother was a silent- screen actress (you can see traces of ' it in the daughter's riveting acting style), her uncle a celebrated Bolshoi dancer-choreographer who still teach- es company class?she began dancing instinctively, and early on exhibited signs of the fighter she was to be- come. "When I was ver, young, I did it quite naturally, not (*Cause I wanted to become a ballerina. I was always THE WASHINGTON POST drawn to the theater . . . I saw my first play at the age of 4, and when I came home I reenacted everyone's role. Also, we had a pianist living with us in those days of communal apart- ments. He played very well, and I was introduced to very good music. "From the beginning, if I was told to do something, I'd do just the oppo- site. My arms and wrists were always black and blue because the girls who took care of me would grab me so I wouldn't run away. I did, in fact, run away from kindergarten, to the com- plete other end of Moscow. Terrible panic set in at the school. Some guy was walking by me, and I came up very close to him so that people wouldn't notice that there was this lit- tle girl by herself. It took me an hour and a half to get home. "I never liked school?the atmos- phere, the odor. I loved being thrown out of class, because they would con- tinue to study and I would be free. I always had an 'anti' feeling for the group, for the collective, whether it was camps, or standing in line . . . We'd be going somewhere on the bus, singing a song, and I never joined in. A lot of things I had to do were against rily nature." One would think that the discipline and formalism of ballet would have frustrated her. Instead, she took to it with a fervor and natural ability that left her teachers at the Bolshoi School in awe. Her space-gobbling leaps, rock-solid balance and prodigious mu- sicality sent her straight from the classroom to the stage. Before the age of 20, she was dancing leading roles, and soon her name was on the lips of all ballet-going Muscovites. Yet the trouble had already begun. Her mother had been sentenced to a labor camp, her father disappeared, and the family subsequently learned of his death in the Gulag. As a result, Pli- setskaya herself was regarded by the KGB as politically unreliable. She was never granted the personal privileges enjoyed by other artists of her stature. Until 1959, she was forbidden to per- form in the West. And from the mo- ment Yuri Grigorovich became artistic director' of the Bolshoi in 1964?a po- sition he holds to this day?the balle- rina's talents were underused and her opinions rejected. "I was never protected," she ex- plains. "In most situations, nobody came to my aid. On the contrary, peo- ple defended others against me. I was not very desirable. There were times which were awful, tragic, when I was right on the verge of leaving the Bol- shoi Theatre." Then why didn't she defect, like so many of her fellow artists? She sighs heavily, and takes her time answering. "To leave the Bolshoi was an impos- sibility. My best performances were danced there. It's the best stage in the world. I just couldn't do it. When I would look at those eight columns in front of the theater, something inside me would turn inside out and upside down." Because Plisetskaya caused such a sensation during the company's visits to the West, she was eventually ac- corded certain opportunities. Chore- ographers outside the Soviet Union?Alonso, Petit, Maurice Be- jart?created roles for her, which she danced on the Bolshoi stage and inter- nationally. And she was allowed to choreograph for herself. Ironically, these tailor-made works came at a time when her technique had begun to diminish. And certainly none of them can be considered a lasting work of art. Only recently she was appointed ar- tistic director of the Spanish National Ballet. In the early '80s, she worked as a choreographer with the ballet company of the Rome Opera. "None of it has sufficed," she says sadly. "I would have loved to have worked with many more choreogra- phers. It's very important for any dancer to have pieces made specifical- 000700530001-2 csi ly for them." She laughs bitteg ' certainly haven't done too Though she clearly mourns ce artistic decisions she has made has never regretted one very petatn choice: to forgo the experienC1 o motherhood. The personal and pikes sional relationship she shares wi husband has been enough. "It's very simple," she declarps.? "Your figure changes. Never hatite I seen a ballerina who has becomecany - better after she has given birth. ht ? haps if you're 18, when nothingRa begun in your career . . . When y out on stage, any imperfection i mediately obvious. Cs! "Also, a child demands a great &al of attention, and that takes away fitim your art. You have to belong to atrt 100 percent." a) , Is that how she would like to membered, as one who has devoted - herself to her muse above all else?'-' The questionquestion pleases her; her es _ ? almost appear to mist over. a) "It would be very nice not to be gotten," she begins. "I believe that kf have been able to give somethin others, they will remember it. very happy to have had such a succs. here in America?people have come'1 to me in tears. To me, that's much more important than for an artist to cry herself. That's howl would like to be remembered."