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Kirov Ballet At Shrine : Assylmuratova Dances Swan Queen

May 26, 1986|MARTIN BERNHEIMER | Times Music/Dance Critic

Even if one can penetrate the strange spellings adopted by the local sponsor--the Ambassador Foundation--few names on the current Kirov roster are likely to cause much of an increase in the balletic adenalin-pump rate.

For the most part, America has simply lost track of who is doing what in Leningrad. Of course, everyone remembers Irina Kolpakova. As fate would have it, however, that venerated ballerina is able to return at this time only as a ballet mistress, not as a dancing protagonist.

Only one exotic name has piqued the curiosity of every self-respecting, well-informed, stout-hearted balletomane: Altynai Assylmuratova.

She was the central attraction in a recent film called "Backstage at the Kirov." She had turned out to be the critical darling of the well-publicized Kirov season in Paris four summers ago.

Assylmuratova, 25, ranks relatively low in a casting system that often favors senior artists or--dare we suggest it?--artists whose most significant claim to Soviet fame must be extra-balletic. Original plans for the present tour virtually ignored her.

In Vancouver last week, she substituted for an injured colleague in one performance of "Swan Lake" and, despite her extraordinary resources and obvious ability, seemed out of sorts.

At Shrine Auditorium on Friday afternoon (an odd performance time necessitated, we are told, by the religious practices of the local sponsor), Assylmuratova got an initially unexpected chance to show Los Angeles her Odette-Odile.

On this occasion, there were few signs of nervous tension. She danced beautifully, suavely, expansively. More important, perhaps, she looked like the ballerina of everyone's dreams.

She has huge, soulful eyes, a perfectly proportioned torso, a remarkably flexible spine, exceptionally long, expressive limbs. She moves with magical fluidity.

She is, without the slightest doubt, prodigiously gifted. She flashes indelible images where others merely strike poses. She makes her fluttery entrance in the White Swan episode and instantly defines the purity of the Kirov ideal.

That does not mean, however, that she is an ideal Odette, much less an ideal Odile.

Her expressive impulses, like those of most Kirov ballerinas, are muted in the classical tradition. She relies on restrained theatrical generalities and contents herself with only minor distinctions between the pathetic swan maiden and her evil alter-ego.

Essentially a lyrical dancer, Assylmuratova excels in the soft attack and the gentle nuance. These devices make her an affecting White Swan. When she becomes the Black Swan, the same attributes become contradictory. The sweet grin that supplants her innocent pout makes her Odile seem merely playful, hardly dangerous.

The fouettes are fearless, the line remains breathtakingly beautiful. But one misses steely strength, one longs for just a bit more flash. It is as if Giselle had grown feathers.

Assylmuratova found a solid and stolid partner in Marat Daukayev, who was making his first appearance of the North American tour on this occasion.

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