Right now, the Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia, is once again arguably the greatest ballet company in the world. Not only have its new leaders developed a roster of brilliant star ballerinas, but they've examined and reinterpreted the company's solid-gold 19th century heritage with unparalleled daring. Thus the return of the full company to Southern California for the first time since 1992 marks a special occasion for local balletomanes.
Far from taking for granted their legacy of homegrown Marius Petipa classics, the Kirov directors have reinvented Petipa by dumping all the changes and additions that later, lesser choreographers imposed on his ballets and have gotten back to what he actually created. At the same time, new choreographers have brought radical updates of other classics to the Kirov stage.
The effect of all this casting and repertory innovation has even begun to alter the look of the Kirov's old rival, the Bolshoi Ballet of Moscow. So even if what's included on the Kirov tour is strangely backdated and a trifle misleading -- a Michel Fokine program produced under the previous regime, a staging of "La Bayadere" that is emphatically not what made news recently in New York and London -- the company's visit to Hollywood (the Kodak Theatre, Oct. 15-19) and Costa Mesa (the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Oct. 21-26) dominates the fall season.