With its red carpet, videographers and autograph seekers, the event Saturday at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre looked like a movie premiere. But call it a ballet ruse: an attempt to lure an audience to a mixed bill by Los Angeles' own Media City Ballet (now beginning its sixth season) by making that program a onetime-only tribute to five male stars of a bygone classical era.
Ranging in age from 78 to 93, these distinguished "Men of the Ballets Russes" (the title of the program) once danced in conditions unimaginable today -- sleeping in trains as they moved from city to city for single-night shows, performing in gymnasiums and other so-called alternative spaces, recycling a repertoire now virtually forgotten. In the process, they set artistic standards, developed a taste for ballet and trained the next generation of dancers. And the one after that as well.
Hosted by radio personality P.J. Ochlan, the three-hour Ebell event (not counting the half-hour late start or the reception afterward) provided only a brief look at the honorees: George Zoritch, Marc Platt, Victor Moreno, Paul Maure and Andrei Tremaine. But they proved omnipresent in videotaped oral-history segments of varying quality, in introductions by former dancers Zina Bethune, Glen Edgerton and Charles Maple, plus a filmed interview with Ballets Russes icon Frederic Franklin.