" Yah vas loo-bloo ! " Igor Stupnikov, a professor at Leningrad University, was teaching Kathryn Thompson Owen how to say "I love you" in Russian ( Ya vas lyublyu ).
" Yah vas loo-bloo !" she repeated, giggling. " Yah vas loo-bloo !"
Oh, yes, it was love, not the Waterford chandeliers, that lit up the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Dana Point on Sunday night.
After performing "The Sleeping Beauty" for a matinee at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, members of the Kirov Ballet had bused it down to the Ritz for an evening barbecue with Center board members and major donors.
When the troupe filed onto a seaside patio to join guests such as Center board Chairman Henry Segerstrom, his wife, Renee, and Center President Thomas Kendrick and his wife, Judy Morr, they were quiet and rather shy. They had, after all, come upon a party scene that had been happening for a solid hour. Guests, gussied down in invitation-prescribed California casual wear, arrived at 6 p.m.; the troupe, at 7.
But before you could say "Tchaikovsky," the dancers began to turn on their love lights: some sat at the chic cocktail tables and flashed heart-stopping smiles; some danced--so gracefully--with guests to the Ruff Riders bluegrass band (guest Michael Gilano was in a full state of blush after an oh-so-slow dance with prima ballerina Tatyana Terekhova). Some, like Stupnikov, actually said, "Ya vas lyublyu ."
And some said it in other ways. "I am glad to see you--your country, your California," said Oleg Vinogradov, the Kirov's dashing artistic director and chief choreographer (who later donned a cowboy hat and crooned "Tom Dooley" in deliciously broken English). "And glad to see that you are all happy for me, for my company! Thank you very much."
After a twilight cocktail hour or two, guests settled down to devour what had to be one of the most divine buffets this side of the repast served up at Malcolm Forbes' recent tango in Tangier: an array of fresh fruit fanned on silver trays the size of Boogie boards, barbecued lamb chops (cooked up on sizzling open grills with coals the size of beach balls), crab tacos with big leaf cactus (the hands-down fave of hamburger mogul Carl Karcher), salads drizzled with champagne lime dressing, and desserts that kept guests saying "Encore! Encore!"--wickedly yummy chocolate-chip cookies, apple tarts and sludge-thick fudge and butterscotch sundaes.
"The Kirov represents the quality and stature that the Center has come to represent," said Center board member and the hostess of the gala, Kathryn Thompson Owen, officially opening the festivities. (Owen, the newlywed wife of developer Gus Owen, wowed the crowd in her cropped blue denim jacket. Its swaying fringe dripped with iridescent bugle beads and crystals.)
Stupnikov told guests that Kirov "was a great politician and friend, killed by Stalin in 1934."
"The company is 206 years old," he continued. "A little behind with France, but with the U.S.A., grandmothers and grandfathers in ballet. The Kirov produced Pavlova, Nijinsky, Balanchine. . . . "
And of the dancers who portrayed "Sleeping Beauty," Stupnikov said: "All of our dancers are young wine . . . our Auroras very young and beautiful, our princes still kicking! It is the task of beauty to save the world--that is what the Kirov is doing."
Then, choking up, he concluded: "As Dostoevsky said, 'Beauty will save the world.' "
Faces in the crowd: Gus Owen (asking the Ruff Riders to play "May I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life?" for his new bride); Dr. Walter Henry with Maria Carmen del Calvo; Jill and Joe Thomas (sporting a platinum 1844 Russian coin around his neck); Jim and Judy Beard (chic in chamois skirt and vest); Maria Crutcher; Lillian Fluor; Bobbitt Williams; Sandra Clouse; Jeanne and David Tappan; Maurice and Marcy Mulville; Tom and Marilyn Nielsen; Julia and Irving Rappaport; John Rau; Diane and Harry Rinker; Sheila Prell Sonenshine with her daughter, Mandy; Billur Wallerich (fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue in Costa Mesa); Joanne Sokolski; Dotti and Glenn Stillwell, and Joyce and Tom Tucker.