- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

DANCING WITH DIPLOMATS

The diplomatic dance - that pas de deux of pinstriped envoys sidestepping around a negotiating table - is often not a pretty sight, says British Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald.

But ballet, that is a “universal art form,” he said Monday, as he hosted a dinner for visiting members of London’s Royal Ballet on the eve of the opening of a week of performances at the Kennedy Center.

“The diplomatic dance is not very elegant, but all of you are ambassadors of dance. All of Washington is looking forward to your performances,” he said.

Two of the dancers, Federico Bonelli and Hikaru Kobayashi, said they were ready to answer the ambassador’s call to be diplomats for one of the world’s premier classical ballet companies.

“The great thing about art is that it is international,” said Mr. Bonelli, an Italian and one of the stars of the ballet company. “So if we are ambassadors, I think that’s great.”

The two dancers are on their first visit to Washington since they got married in September. They met when they were members of the ballet company in Zurich and later joined the London company.

Before she went to Zurich, Ms. Kobayashi was a member of the Paris Opera Ballet, the first Japanese citizen to join the French dance company.

Between the Tuesday night opening and the final performance Sunday, they will have little time to explore Washington. Their days begin with midmorning dance classes, basically exercise sessions, followed by rehearsals that take up the rest of the day before showtime.

With all the dancing, leaping and turning, they maintain the typical dancer’s physique, muscular and thin, and burn through calories like a wildfire.

“We can eat whatever we like,” said Mr. Bonelli, who admitted to a fondness for hot dogs.

AFGHAN COMPLAINTS

The Afghan government Tuesday raised questions about meetings between U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and opposition candidates for president.

Humayon Hamidzada, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, said his government is concerned that Mr. Eikenberry might have endorsed one of Mr. Karzai’s opponents in the Aug. 20 election.

“We have no objection if such meetings are for ensuring a fair electoral process,” he told reporters in the capital, Kabul. “However, if during the meetings, candidates’ special programs came under discussion or were supported, in this case, we would regard it a violation of Afghanistan national sovereignty.”

Among his meetings, Mr. Eikenberry held talks with Mr. Karzai’s main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister.

On Sunday, Mr. Eikenberry told reporters that the United States would not interfere with the elections, which included contests for provincial councils.

“The United States does not support or oppose any particular presidential or provincial council candidate,” he said.

WORDSMITH WANTED

He has not yet been confirmed as ambassador to Britain, but Louis Susman is already looking for a speechwriter to help him speak the Queen’s English.

Mr. Susman, a retired investment banker for Citigroup and one of President Obama’s largest campaign fundraisers, is advertising for an aide with a “deep knowledge of British politics, media and society,” according to the London Telegraph newspaper.

The jobs pays $67,000 a year for only a 32-hour work week.

Mr. Susman, known as the “vacuum cleaner” for his ability to get campaign cash, raised more than $400,000 for Mr. Obama.

c Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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