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A Little Glasnost at the Bolshoi

August 13, 1987|MARYLOUISE OATES | Times Staff Writer

For the first time since he defected eight years ago, ballet star-turned-actor Alexander Godunov got the chance to see the Bolshoi Ballet on Tuesday night. What wasn't on the program was the drama following the performance--a little glasnost, a lot of pathos and probably the most stirring reunion since Reggie Jackson rejoined the A's.

Godunov had not been invited to the first-night party following the performance--and, in fact, one representative of the James Nederlander organization said Soviet officials had been adamant that the dancer be banned from the party. A similar demand had been presented several months ago, when Nederlander brought the Moiseyev Ballet here. No wonder, because of his Hollywood life style and romance with the glamorous Jacqueline Bisset, Godunov must look like an advertisement for the American Dream.

Still sporting his once-signature shoulder-length blond hair, Godunov made his presence known to his former company at the curtain call ending "The Golden Age." Jumping from his seat in the first row of the Founders, he applauded wildly and even whistled, especially as Bolshoi artistic director/choreographer Yuri Grigorovich came on stage. Animatedly, he pointed to various performers on stage, talking to Bisset as he obviously explained who was who.

Temporary Distraction

For a few minutes, it seemed as though the applause and the bows would be the only communication. The company's principals seemed distracted as they held quick conversations, looking between Godunov and around at the others on stage. Godunov's defection had kept the Bolshoi from the United States for eight years--and this performance was marked by the six Soviet security men who stood inside stage-adjacent doors during the performance.

Those invited to the post-performance party gathered in the main lobby of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, waiting until the tables and chairs were set up upstairs in the Grand Hall. Godunov, with actress Bisset as his constant companion, stayed upstairs, in conversation with friends Carlyn and Ben Benjamin. Godunov pointed to a picture in their souvenir program, showing dancers at rehearsal, one cropped off to show only his leg. "That's my leg," he announced.

He was sure that was his leg--but, no, he wasn't sure about going to the party: "How would I know if I am invited?" And, yes, he was clear that he wanted to make no trouble, no commotion: "I would just like to see my friends."

The performance: "It was wonderful. It was great." Had he danced this ballet? "No, no. For me it was 'Ivan the Terrible' and 'Spartacus,' " he said laughing, walking down the Grand Staircase.

There, he spoke with attorney Neil Papiano, who represents the Nederlander corporation. A hurried conversation was held, with Papiano making the decision that to bar Godunov from the party would be "inhospitable and ungracious." Godunov told Papiano that he was afraid that if he came upstairs to the party, the company would fulfill its threat and leave. Papiano told Godunov that "you will be our guest" and that if the Bolshoi decided to walk out, "that's their decision."

Godunov Ecstatic

Now an ecstatic Godunov made his way quickly the few steps to where the young dancers and old masters grouped together. And, as the black-tie watchers looked on, he grabbed Grigorovich in an embrace, spoke a few words and, after the Bolshoi artistic director pulled back, moved on to a circle of dancers. One by one, old friends hugged Godunov, while newer members of the company somewhat shyly lined up to introduce themselves. First-nighters standing about stared almost in wonder at the emotionality of the moment--and, in several cases, women were seen dabbing their eyes with hankies.

Someone apparently made the decision that the ballet company would not leave--and the reunion went on.

Occasionally Godunov would pull Bisset over to make an introduction, an especially enthusiastic one when he sighted Marina Semyonova, the great ballerina and now a company coach. He looked close to tears, talking excitedly, as he hugged the grandmotherly-looking woman--so engrossed that he seemed not to notice when Bisset announced peevishly, "Don't pull me about."

Then up the Grand Staircase again, where he began a round of tables as the ballet company first besieged fruit-and-sweets-laden buffet tables, then sat talking among themselves. A not-too-hip dance band finally filled the dance floor by playing "Sea Cruise" and letting the young dancers rock out.

Making the Rounds

Godunov kept making his rounds: "I am very happy, very happy."

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