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Bolshoi to Perform Two Ballets For First Time In America

June 26, 1987

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Bolshoi Ballet launches its first U.S. tour since 1979 next week, performing two ballets the internationally acclaimed dance company has never before presented in the United States.

″Raymonda,″ by Alexander Glazunov, and ″The Golden Age,″ by Dmitry Shostakovich, are part of the Bolshoi repetoire but will be staged for the first time for American audiences when the company debuts June 30 at the Metropolitan Opera House.

The version of ″Giselle″ that the company will perform has also been changed since the Bolshoi’s last American tour, and will feature new sets and costumes.

About 110 dancers will make the tour, performing in New York through July 18 and at Washington’s Kennedy Center from July 21 to Aug. 1. The Bolshoi will also perform in San Francisco from Aug. 4-9 and in Los Angeles from Aug. 11-30.

Only two of the dancers - Natalia Bessmertnova and Lyudmila Semenyaka - have made previous Bolshoi appearances in the United States.

The tour, first announced when a new cultural exchange agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union was signed in Geneva in November 1985, is the company’s 10th visit to the United States.

Three Bolshoi performers, including Alexander Godunov, defected during the company’s last U.S. tour in 1979.

Godunov’s defection led to a 70-hour standoff at Kennedy International Airport in New York, while U.S. officials sought a meeting with his wife, Lyudmila Vlasova, who was then a ballerina in the Bolshoi company.

Miss Vlasova returned to the Soviet Union after American officials talked privately with her and announced that they were convinced she was returning of her own free will. Godunov remained in the United States and has since gone on to acting, appearing in such films as ″Witness.″

The Bolshoi has not been back to America since the Godunov defection. A U.S.-Soviet cultural exchange agreement that expired in the late 1970s was under renegotiation in 1979 when the Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan, creating a chill in superpower relations and ending the cultural negotiations.

At a recent news conference to announce the tour, Yuri Grigorovich, director of the company, was asked about reports earlier this year that Mikhail Baryshnikov had turned down an invitation to perform at the Bolshoi.

Baryshnikov, a star in Leningrad’s esteemed Kirov Ballet before his defection to the West in 1974, was invited to come to Moscow to participate in a February international disarmament forum, Grigorovich said.

″There was some misunderstandng on the part of the American press because they thought I had invited him to dance on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater,″ Grigorovich said. ″I invited him to participate at the conference at the forum, where he could sit at a round table.″

However, Grigorovich added that if enough American dancers had agreed to come to the forum, he wanted to stage a concert at the Bolshoi that would feature his own company and the Americans.

Grigorovich said other American dancers, whom he declined to name, turned down the invitation, citing previous contract commitments.

Baryshnikov said he would come, according to Grigorovich, only if he was allowed to bring his company, the American Ballet Theater, to the Soviet Union for performances at the Bolshoi Theater in October.

The theater is scheduled to close June 1 for repairs, but will reopen Oct. 16. However, Grigorovich said an American Ballet Theater tour was ruled out because the Bolshoi company will be using the theater in late October to get ready for performances planned during the Soviet Union’s Nov. 7 celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

During its American tour, the Bolshoi will also present the first act of ″Romeo and Juliet,″ the second act of ″Spartacus″ and the pas de deux from ″Swan Lake,‴’Sleeping Beauty″ and other ballets.

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