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VAI will release another historical item:

A complete 1978 performance of this classic ballet stars the magnificent Nadezhda Pavlova and Vyacheslav Gordeev; Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater is conducted by Alexander Kopilov. DVD Bonus: Scenes from Don Quixote filmed at the Bolshoi in 1964 and starring the legendary dancers Maya Plisetskaya and Maris Liepa; Bolshoi Orchestra conducted by Youri Fayer. 1978 performance is in color and runs 113 minutes; 1964 Scenes are in black & white and run 31 minutes.

Don Quixote (1978)

Music: Leopold Minkus

Choreography: Alexander Gorsky, after Marius Petipa

Kitri/Dulcinea: Nadezhda Pavlova

Basil: Vyacheslav Gordeev

Don Quixote: Vladimir Levachov

Sancho Panza: Vasiliy Vorokhobko

Juanita: Irina Vozianova

Bolshoi Ballet

Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater

Alexander Kopilov, conductor


Don Quixote (Scenes – 1964)

Kitri/Dulcinea: Maya Plisetskaya

Basil: Maris Liepa

Don Quixote: Vladimir Tikhonov

Bolshoi Ballet

Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater

Youri Fayer, conductor


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I met the couple a year later. She was just about the most wonderful ballerina in Creation. She was exceptionally tiny in real life, but had a uniquely magical talent to, at the right dramatic moment, rise and tower above everyone, till no one else even existed. Still regret not making the trip up to Canada (?) to see her Giselle, but at the time it seemed there'd be a couple of decades left to see it. I wonder why it took nearly three decades to release this?!

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This arrived Friday. I haven't yet looked at the Plizetskaya excerpts, because I can't stop playing the Dream Team of Nadezhda Pavlova (22) and her husband of three years Vyacheslav Gordeev (30) over and over again. In terms of the greatest of today's ballerinas, she is an amalgam of Ashley Bouder and Natasha Osipova.

The video quality is mostly wonderful, true and saturated colors, no MTV editing. The editor is very unobtrusive, only a handful of reaction shots, you can see the dancers' feet when you want to ...

This has got to be a Kitri even younger than a Peter Martins Juliet, as played by Nadezhda. She is in fact tiny and she pulls out all her shape-shifting talent to look even smaller, as she enters, one minute after the show begins. She is a humming-bird, and the brilliant Alexandr Kopilov conducts the fabulous Bolshoi musicians accordingly. There is hardly a clue that this is a world-class ballerina, as this giddy child flitters through the crowd, but then the great Gordeev (if memory serves he was in recovery from a serious injury, still dazzles yet had not reached the almost Baryshnikov perfection I saw a year later) arrives and you know she is twitter-pated with both her Basil and her husband! He greets her wild spontaneity, she darts away and back, and they're off to the races. Earlier the awkward girl dropped her fan; now, she flings it away for a better partner.

When she spots DQ, she shows her respect with some more classical graces, and shades her dancing with Basil accordingly, still the little girl but one who can convince a Knight to come to their rescue. Later, the one-armed lifts gain their effect not as any show of strength, who can't lift a little bird, but because of her wild carrying-on with her tambourine while up there.

The video is too dark during the short Act 2 when the Don tilts with the windmill (perhaps...I couldn't see one). A minor flaw, erased by a beautifully lit Act 3 Vision Scene, all pastel, yet fully color-saturated. Who was that ballerina in pink? Usually played by the Kitri dancer. Of course it was Pavlova, she'd done her magic trick: become taller, lengthened and thinned her arms and legs. This is a Ballerina! Were those triple pirouettes interpolated between the French fouettees? The live audience stopped the show accordingly. There followed her Osipova grand jetees. The ones where an invisible Angel follows above Natasha, shielding her from the laws of gravity. Evidently the Angel's been at the Bolshoi for at least 30 years. The humming-bird transformed, into a small but soaring eagle. The Act ended, even some early flowers from the crowd, cheering plus the rythmic clapping that we should learn from the citizens of Moscow.

The last Act dumps the whole story. We're in a castle. Amour/Cupide from the Vision Scene is there, with a corps of replicates. Others from earlier Acts appear, replicated as well. Kitri, a Princess, is borne in to enjoy the show. Has the Don's earlier dream continued on as one for the village girl? Had the ballerina-in-pink been her, both in the Don's dream and in Kitri's own? At any rate, in dashes her Prince. At a point in the PdD the one-armed lifts are repeated, but in all nobility, now a grand ballerina rides his hand. With so much BT discussion about what are and aren't proper fish dives.... He flings her sky-ward into a triple spin, and she floats down into his arms a fish. For those who've seen Ferri or Vishneva in Manon, spins a little like that.

As one who usually is unhappy with ballet videos, this one I love, probably more than any other. For all its live performance little bobbles from perfection, the compensation was extraordinary. So much of the magic of a real performance, with an incredible artist, a unique interpretation. Of course she was my favorite classical dancer at that time, and they were my partnership of choice.

So many dancers not named on the box, nor on the film's closing credits. There's splendid character dancing, especially in the Tavern Scene; the two girls in yellow looked like future stars. I hope some of BT's Moscow friends can fill us in.

Are there other Pavlova films still hidden from view? Their Giselle, Juliet, the perfect Spartacus?

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