Orange County last saw Danilo Radojevic dance in 1991 as one of the lead males in Natalia Makarova's production of "La Bayadere" for American Ballet Theatre at the Performing Arts Center.
People didn't know it at the time, but that would be their final opportunity to see the ABT principal dancer, whose patrician virtuosity and emotional restraint had earned him fans and respect.
Radojevic, 36, resigned from ABT--and the world of dance--in May because of back and knee injuries. "I can't fight through all that pain anymore," he said at the time.
In addition to leaving memories of his dancing, however, Radojevic has bequeathed another kind of legacy. His first effort at choreography, "Sirens," which was commissioned by the dance department at UC Irvine, will be premiered by the UCI Dance Ensemble tonight through Sunday at the Fine Arts Village Theatre on the Irvine campus.
Set to existing music of the same title by Philip Glass, the 16-minute "Sirens" (which shares the program at UCI with works by Christine Baltes, Beverly Blossom, Anton Dolin and James Penrod) utilizes eight corps women, two female leads and one male lead. "I called it 'Sirens' because it's subterranean," Radojevic said. "The music reminded me of the ocean a lot."
"It's an abstract piece, really like mermaids and this boy being taken, being hypnotized by the ocean and these women. At the end, all the girls disappear. He's left just looking at the ocean. I'm hoping to have a projection, really slow motion, as a backdrop of waves. It's nothing in-depth or anything like that, by any means. If we can get all those effects working, it will look quite nice."
A native of Sydney, Australia, Radojevic first came to international prominence when he won the Gold Medal at the 1977 Third International Ballet Competition in Moscow. Mikhail Baryshnikov, then artistic director of ABT, brought him into the company a year later. He was promoted to principal status in 1981 and danced frequently on ABT's visits to the arts center. "Dancing was a very exciting life," he said. "You don't appreciate it until afterward. You put so much time of your life into it. When you leave, you have to find a whole new life. You haven't made a lot of money like someone in sports, where you don't have to work again."
But "of all the art forms, physically, dancing is the most demanding and the shortest of all art-form careers. I was fairly successful as a dancer; now it's time to move on."
Radojevic and his wife, Careen Hobart, a corps dancer who resigned from ABT at the same time he did, live in Manhattan, but are hoping to move to Florida. They are both looking for new careers, possibly in desktop publishing and graphic design.
"It's a big transition," he said.
Right now, Radojevic doesn't see dance in his future. "I was never a real ballet buff (or) fan," he said. "I liked dancing all right. But the last thing I wanted was to go to the theater and watch dance. Maybe later on in life, when I've been away from it for a while, I'll go back. Right now, I'd rather watch the World Series."