I myself don't dance, but I love to watch other people dance. Ever since I was a kid -- watching Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire on movies on TV, or seeing spectacular Broadway dancers like Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Donna McKechnie, Swen Swenson, and others on stage – I've loved to watch great dancers dance.
Somewhere along the way I began to like ballet. In the 1960s, ballet – especially the Joffrey Ballet – became "cool" in hip young circles, and I went a few times. That got me interested. And when the Tiny Goddess turned out to be a serious balletomane (as well as ex-dancer), we started to go to the ballet frequently. Frequently, that is, allowing our artistic budget to include theatre, rock and roll, and all the other dazzling stuff that New York offers.
We were lucky enough to see many great dancers in the 1970s and 80s like Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Suzanne Farrell, Gelsey Kirkland, Ivan Nagy, Edward Villella, and others. Our favorite company was the New York City Ballet, and our favorite choreographer was George Balanchine. (Duh.)
Moving out to Los Angeles took us away from an important dance capital. To find great dance out here in southern California, we often have to drive down to Costa Mesa in Orange County where there is strong support for dance. That's where a few years ago we saw a dancer with the visiting Mariinsky Ballet (formerly the Kirov Ballet) named DIANA VISHNEVA, who is quite simply one of the best dancers I've ever seen.
When we first saw her, we didn't know anything at all about her, but we were transfixed by her amazing talent. We called our friend Larry who is a true ballet expert. (He ghost-authored several autobiographies of major American dancers and is our go-to ballet authority.) He informed us that she was currently one of the greatest ballerinas in the world, and when she danced, her photograph was on the front page of "The New York Times" – not the Arts section, the actual Front Page.
So last Saturday night, the Tiny Goddess and I saw her again – this time in a new production of Tchaikovsky's THE SLEEPING BEAUTY by the American Ballet Theatre. (Vishneva dances with the ABT, the Mariinsky, and her own company sometimes, going out as "Diana Vishneva & Friends.")
This SLEEPING BEAUTY was a big, old-fashioned three-act ballet with full orchestra, spectacular sets, glamorous costumes, and lots of pantomimed story. But it had Diana Vishneva as Princess Aurora. We were lucky to see this production, which was trying out "on the road," before it goes to New York for inclusion in the American Ballet Theatre's Spring Season at the Metropolitan Opera after the opera season is over.
Vishneva danced beautifully. Perhaps not flawlessly. (Ballet absurdly demands flawlessness.) But beautifully. She has this "perfect line" in almost everything she does. Some artists are blessed; she is one of them. I'm sure it's tons of natural talent plus tons of hard work. No one works harder than a ballet dancer.
I wish that she had had more to dance. (The TG told me that there should have been more of the Pas de Deux in the second act.) But what she did made it well worth the trip down beyond the Orange Curtain. The beauty of her dancing to the Tchaikovsky music was a fact.
It was eight hours, door-to-door. (Don't you just love southern California traffic?) But we had a nice little Italian dinner, stuck in there, between the driving and the dancing. The main thing is – it was worth it. I was in the presence of Greatness.
Here is some YouTube proof:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zdw3OUdHeNc -- SWAN LAKE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwxTgSILfmc -- GISELLE, Part 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WffweeavVI -- GISELLE, Part 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51JELveLPkg -- RUBIES (especially thrilling)
If you don't like ballet, give these a try. Vishneva will convert you. She is the real deal.