When the Kirov Comes to Town

hatever the city’s name, whatever the state of the ruble, the grand neoclassical structures of St. Petersburg still wear their fairytale shades of periwinkle blue and opaline green, and the Kirov Ballet still inhabits its half-world of spacious symmetry and Williwhite nights. But more is possible now.

The company’s acquisition of Western masterpieces continues. In an 11-week North American tour that begins May 14 in Vancouver, the Kirov presents George Balanchine’s early triumph Apollo along with the technical killer Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. Antony Tudor is represented by Jardin aux Lilas and The Leaves Are Fading—a wonderful pairing, the deft Victorian melodrama of Jardin distilled in the circling late-summer transparencies of Leaves. The roster is rounded out by three full-length ballets: the Lavrovsky version of Romeo and Juliet and new productions of Swan Lake (with the tragic, un-Soviet ending restored) and La Bayadère—finally we see this assay on infinity performed by the company that premiered it.

Much awaited is the return of young artists who were in first blush on the big tour of 1989 and are now blossoming: the rosy, gentle Zhanna Ayupova, the long-stemmed Yulia Makhalina, and Larissa Lezhnina, a Dresden shepherdess. Watch for baby ballerina Anna Polikarpova, a comsilk princess who’s the dreamy picture in her own locket. And brace yourself for Igor Zelinsky. In Apollo, he’s typecast. This 21-year-old blond phenomenon has the python pounce of young Nureyev, a sky-high leap, and a superb pout. Watch for the schoolboy smile that melts the ice—applause makes Igor glow.

For a glimpse inside the company just seconds pre-putsch, have a look at The Leningrad Legend by Kultur Video (800-458-5887). Narrated by former Kirov dancer Natalia Makarova, the perspective is a smart balance between honored history and up-to-the-minute reform. The camera stalks current stars, artistic director Oleg Vinogradov, revered teachers, and the Neva—it’s a perfect primer to the company’s tour: Vancouver (May 14 to 17); Orange County, California (May 19 to 24); Los Angeles (May 26 to 31); Toronto (June 3 to 7); Quebec (June 8); Montreal (June 10 to 14); Boston (June 16 to 20); New York (June 22 to July 3); and Vienna, Virginia (July 6 to 8). —L.J.