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The Washington Post

June 7, 1986



TV Preview


PBS’ Sublime ‘Swan’


By Pamela Sommers                                   

Special to The Washington Post


      During the course of its 16-day four-city tour of the United States, which ended Thursday at Wolf Trap, the Kirov Ballet stirred the sensibilities of a great many dance-goers.

     Thanks to Maryland Public Television and the Wolf Trap foundation for the Performing Arts, all those who missed these live performances can get a fascinating glimpse of the legendary troupe tonight at 8 p.m. when “Wolf Trap Presents the Kirov: Swan Lake” airs on PBS stations nationwide.

      The 2˝ hour broadcast – the first dance program ever produced by MPT – became a reality when senior producer and director Phillip Byrd met with Kirov representatives in Vancouver, where the company was appearing at Expo 86.

      According to Byrd, the Russians proved eminently knowledgeable about television and, once he had presented his views about the project, quite trusting as well.

      Vowing to remain “as faithful as possible to the Holy Grail of ballet,” Byrd and his staff used seven cameras an a minimum of tricks to film last Tuesday night’s performance of this most beloved of classical ballets.  Their restraint has paid off.  Unlike so many televised versions of dance performances, this is a program that affords viewers a clear, tastefully edited look at both the principal dancers and the stunning Kirov corps.

      The broadcast begins with a recorded message from President Reagan (who did not attend the Wolf Trap performances), welcoming the company as the first major performing arts attraction to visit this country as a result of last November’s cultural exchange agreement between Reagan and Gorbachev.  After the credits roll in both Russian and English, we’re offered a series of backstage glimpses: close-ups of legs and feet being warmed up, stagehands moving scenery, dramatic Russian countenances primed for performance.  With the first foreboding strains of Tchaikovsky’s celebrated score, the mood is set.

      What purity of line, what severity of demeanor these dancers exhibit!  Olga Tcheytchikova, the ballerina who portrays the dual role of Odette/Odile, exhibits an almost frightening strength.  Her immense jumps, ferociously fast turns and languorous extensions turn her into a rather willful White Swan, and an absolutely maniacal Black Swan.  As Prince Siegfried, Konstantin Zaklinsky offers a far less flashy but not less convincing interpretation, triumphing by his buoyant leaps, tender partnering and overall nobility.

      These two dancers may be the titular stars, but it is the ensemble that truly takes one’s breath away.  “Moving as if they were one” – an overused phrase in the dance world – finally truly applies. Be it a barely discernible glance, a subtle turn of the head or arch of the back, the dancers act together in perfect synchrony – a precision detailed in the telecast with occasional stunning shots from above that point up the bold architectural patterns created by choreographer Marius Petipa.

      In addition to offering the ballet in its entirety, the broadcast features short interviews with Tcheytchikova and Kirov Artistic Director Oleg Vinogradov.