Marcia Haydee circles her hotel room that looks out on a Bel-Air glade, and, after collecting a package delivered to the door, she curls into a club chair.
"This is really a holiday for me," says the Brazilian-born dancer, here to dance at tonight's opening performance of the Bejart Ballet at Royce Hall, UCLA.
A smile warms her very wan face--chalk-white against a long, black mane pulled into a ponytail. She pulls her knees to her chest and explains:
"When I can leave my company (the Stuttgart Ballet) for 10 days, leave behind all the details and complications that go into running a big operation like that and have the luxury of just dancing, yes, it's a holiday. Because I love (Maurice) Bejart, as a man and as a creator, and because I love dancing with (Jorge) Donn, an invitation like this is pure pleasure."
She speaks with quiet conviction. No theatricalisms embellish the words. One even momentarily forgets the visions of her bereft Tatiana or comic Kate, roles she created in John Cranko's "Eugene Onegin" and "The Taming of the Shrew," respectively.
While Haydee may not look terribly authoritative in her pink-striped jump suit and Reeboks, she is that rarity: simultaneously prima ballerina and company director.
Indeed, it is often a dancer who holds a troupe's artistic reins these days, but seldom a woman. With Peter Martins at New York City Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov at American Ballet Theatre and Rudolf Nureyev at the Paris Opera Ballet, men easily dominate the scene.
But Haydee, at 50, doesn't see herself as some kind of feminist.
"Most directors just want the position," she says straightforwardly, "in order to be on top, for power, or to have a future (when their dancing careers end). My interest is not that. I took over (the Stuttgart Ballet) because I grew up in this company and understood it and loved it and needed to see it continue."
Cranko, who built the Stuttgart to his modern-narrative specifications, died in 1973. Two years later, Haydee--his muse--stepped in to fill the breach. Ever since, she has dedicated herself to carrying out the late choreographer's ideals of a repertory company.
In part, those ideals involved both a literary-based brand of ballet and a dramatic form that could produce a dancing actress such as Haydee.
"It happened," she says of her performing career, "because I gave myself to Cranko almost like a virgin: fresh, unformed. Now dancers want to be great in their own right and for their own persona. They don't want to lend themselves as creative vehicles, or be molded by another's inspiration."
She mentions the full-length "Medea" that John Neumeier will stage for her next season and his "Lady of the Camellias" several years ago.
"The secret of my career," says the dramatic ballerina, "is that I continue to have works made on me. As long as choreographers create for the way I am today they will get the best--my maturity and experience--and so will I."
American audiences don't stand to observe that process much these days, however. While Bejart has been able to win over some of the U.S. critics who, for years, viewed his ritualist-mystic ballets as so much erotic mumbo-jumbo, the Stuttgart doesn't even try to tour here, says Haydee. Its two months of free time are spent touring Europe, Israel, China and South America on a repeat-invitation basis.
Haydee points as well to colleagues Neumeier and William Forsythe and Glen Tetley--American expatriates all--who find the European climes more hospitable.
"Europe is more open to complex themes in dance," she explains. "There is a different mentality. Audiences (there) like ballets that deal with insights and commentary. But, here, they like what is direct and simple."
Except for her local appearance two years ago--also at UCLA with Bejart--Haydee has become something of a stranger to these shores. Her interest in dance affairs here goes on, however.
"I cannot understand a place that turns away its greatest dancers," she says, with real heat, referring to American Ballet Theatre and its depleted star ranks. "How do you have a Fernando Bujones and not treasure him? Or Natasha (Makarova) or Gelsey (Kirkland) or Cynthia (Gregory)?
"The company should make ballets for them, feed them, value them. Instead it throws them away --these, the great artists who represent it. Where's the responsibility? Where's the intelligence?
"It takes time to run a company. You must have time to listen and talk to your dancers. You must get to know each one as a person, not just look to see if it's a pretty face and a fine leg.
"Cranko knew how to be a parent," says Marcia Haydee, whose company is also her family. "He knew nurturing.
"You get back what you give."