- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2007

A hush always descends over a room the moment stunningly attractive dancers walk in, and that is exactly what happened Tuesday night when the Bolshoi Ballet made the scene in the Golden Hall of the Russian Embassy.

The crystal chandeliers, the massive marble walls and mosaics, the gilded grandeur — even the caviar and vodka — suddenly were forgotten as the impossibly poised company members swanned past onlookers at the reception hosted by Ambassador Yuri V. Ushakov and his wife, Svetlana.

“It hardly matters that few of them speak English,” one guest was overheard saying near the bar; “all you want to do is gawk.”

“The Bolshoi is my favorite,” Mrs. Ushakova affirmed while greeting friends in a pale blue suit with matching fur collar. “They are the best of the best, and yes, the ‘mother of all ballets.’ ”

After pointing out that the Bolshoi had been invited to the Kennedy Center for the first time in five years to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of Russian-American diplomatic ties, Mr. Ushakov noted that the company’s U.S. tours in the 1960s helped “dispel many anti-American myths and stereotypes created by Soviet propaganda” back home. By way of return, he added with a chuckle, so many Americans were exposed to the “high contagiousness” of the dancers’ “artistic perfection” that they couldn’t help “contracting the so-called Russian disease.”

Those with a “Bolshoi bug” savoring the opportunity to see the U.S. premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s “Cinderella” and Marius Petipa’s classic “Don Quixote” this weekend included Philip and Nina Pillsbury, James and Sylvia Symington, Vladimir Tolstoy-Miloslavsky, Ann and Bill Nitze and Xenia Woyevodsky.

Alexei Ratmansky the Bolshoi’s artistic director, told reporters that most of his dancers have performed previously in the U.S. and are aware that audiences here are not the same as in Russia. “Americans’ tastes and expectations are different. You really get the feeling if they like it or not,” he said. “Russians are harder to please.”

Kevin Chaffee

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