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Maya Plisetskaya performs 'The Dying Swan'

Maya Plisetskaya performs ‘The Dying Swan’

Maya Plisetskaya performs “The Dying Swan” at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium during a benefit program for Los Angeles Classical Ballet.

Published in the Feb. 17, 1992, Los Angeles Times, this photo accompanied a story by dance writer Lewis Segal:

Anna Pavlova last danced “The Dying Swan” when she was nearly 50, troubled by knee problems and other signs that her career had run its course. Even then, however, we’re told that her performance of this three-minute signature solo could give any audience a sense of how fragile life’s beauty and freedom can be.

On Saturday, Maya Plisetskaya returned to Pasadena Civic Auditorium, dancing “The Dying Swan” twice (once as an encore) on a benefit program for Los Angeles Classical Ballet. At 66, this former Bolshoi star no longer evokes a creature of the air struggling to escape earthly bonds: Pavlova’s legacy taken into a heroic dimension during Plisetskaya’s prime.

Instead, Mikhail Fokine’s choreography now yields a statement about a ballerina’s resistance and painful submission to the inevitable, with flashes of all-too-human pain and even rage contrasting with the formal technical effects: the still magical rippling arms and shimmering bourrees.

Plisetskaya doesn’t integrate the components of the solo any more but reinterprets it as an interrupted dance, with mime increasingly its focus as she stops skimming the stage on her pointes and sinks deeply into her weight. This conceptual shift allows her to give what she still can, to remain an artist rather than just a ballet celebrity.

In the curtain calls, she refuses to wrap herself in nostalgic glamour a la Alicia Alonso, but behaves as if she’s among friends. In a program full of distorted notions of Russian ballet, she shows us the heart of a great tradition and trusts that we’ll understand. …

For more, check out Plisetskaya’s recent Los Angeles Times obituary: Celebrated Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya dies at 89.

Feb. 15, 1992: Maya Plisetskaya receiving applause following performace of “The Dying Swan” at Pasadena Civic Auditorium during a benefit program for Los Angeles Classical Ballet. This photo was published in the Feb. 17, 1992 Los Angeles Times.

Feb. 15, 1992: Maya Plisetskaya receiving applause following performance of  “The Dying Swan”€ at Pasadena Civic Auditorium.  Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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