His lavish "Nutcracker," with sets and costumes by Russian designers, is traditional, with Aliev's original choreography. But his libretto emphasizes story, tying the first and second acts together, he says, by making magician Herr Drosselmeyer a principal role.
"He's Hoffmann in my version," Aliev explains, referring to the author of the original German fairy tale, E.T.A. Hoffmann. "He's nearing the end of his life, and he is writing, creating magic and showing Clara his work, telling her that the world is beautiful."
Older audience members, Aliev feels, will identify with Drosselmeyer's hope that Clara will continue his legacy, while "kids 5, 6, 7 years old will enjoy the dancing, the music, the colors. The mid-generation will probably see it from my perspective: 'What is my goal in life? I have to leave something after I am gone.' "
Although the weekend will offer L.A.'s first look at Ballet Internationale, Aliev seems serenely confident that it won't be the last. After all, L.A. needs a ballet company. Maybe something can be arranged, he says, only half in jest.
"I have a big dream. Can I share it with you? My dream is to have a sister city project. To have my company presenting back-to-back seasons here and in Indianapolis. When I hear from people, 'Oh, Los Angeles is not for ballet,' or 'Ballet is not for Los Angeles,' I always want to say, 'Don't tell me that, OK?' "
He remembers how he and his fellow dancers were greeted like rock stars by delirious balletomanes when the Kirov came to L.A. in 1986 on its first North American tour in 21 years.
"People were standing in line for tickets when the performances were sold out; after the performances, people were trying to touch us. And they couldn't because there was FBI, CIA, KGB, and we couldn't even talk to the people."
He pauses as he recalls a more recent, less pleasant memory that clearly still rankles.
"When I moved to the States, I was filling out an application for something. It said 'occupation,' and I said, 'ballet dancer.' The person reviewing my application said, 'Oh, you're a ballet dancer. How nice. But what do you do for a living?' For a few minutes I couldn't understand the nature of his question. When I did, it was a slap in my face."
The feasibility of an L.A. connection aside, Aliev's efforts to transform Ballet Internationale with his Russian aesthetic and to raise the consciousness of the ballet-phobic are born out of "the passion of my life," he says.
"Ballet is one of the finest, most elegant art forms. It is more than just a profession to me. Ballet is my religion."
Where: Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Cal State L.A., 5151 State University Drive, L.A.
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday
Price: $50 to $65
Contact: (323) 343-6600, (213) 365-3500, www.ticketmaster.com