NINA: Spring/Summer of 2000

I am writing this in August, as New York's quirky summer of 2000 seems quickly to be coming to a close. Weatherwise we had some hot, humid summer days in May, a pleasantly cool June and a very rainy July and August. Sunshine, when it comes, nowadays, is a dimly remembered presence. However, those lucky enough to have seen Nina's New York season have no cause to complain. We've stored up enough brilliant memories to sustain us till the next dose of Nina. (N.B. : For some of us, this could be as early as September, when she appears both at Kennedy Center and in Houston.)

Special events marked Nina's short season with ABT. First there was a book launch party (May 18) at the famous restaurant, Elaine's, to celebrate the publication of Nancy Ellison's beautiful photo essay on Swan Lake, featuring Nina in her signature role. The lively, by invitation-only event, was packed with Nina's admirer's---plus a TV crew and photographers who followed Nina all over town this season. (Reportedly, CBS has filmed footage of Nina in Moscow, and they were shooting some more in New York---and presumably elsewhere during the Bolshoi U.S. tour. However, the network has not as yet announced an air date.)

The next day, fans of Nina had another chance for a close encounter when she appeared for an interview/book signing at the Barnes and Noble store at Lincoln Center. A standing-room only audience sat enthralled as Nina and Nancy talked about how the book was conceived and made. Later Nina took questions about her life in ballet and talked about her art. One of the memorable statements she made was that she liked to have partners who are as good and strong as she is, because that spurs her to better performances. She extended this to the saying the better the company as a whole, the better she likes it, since all the elements can combine to really make a wonderful performance. After this, people lined up for nearly an hour to get tehir books signed. Nina not only signed - she drew little ballerina figures, chatted and posed for pictures with her admirers (At a similar event in Costa Mesa, the store reportedly sold out the Swan Lake book).

Those who have been following the reviews (including As We See It) we have posted on this site throughout the season will know how magical it has been. Now I reread my calendar and see that on May 20th Nina danced Swan Lake, I can't help but catch my breath as I remember how magnificent that performance was! Truly one for the ages.

Naturally the Friends followed Nina to Washington, where she joined the Bolshoi (in Romeo and Juliet and Don Quixote) for the start of its five-city U.S. tour that proved to be a smashing success---with sold out performances throughout. Alas, our jobs and resources did not allow us to follow the company around the U.S., but we were rewarded by a visit by the Bolshoi to New York's Lincoln Center Festival, with a different program. As part of the Festival, there was an hour-long interview and Questions and Answers with Bolshoi artistic director Alexei Fadeyechev---who not too long ago was Nina's principal partner at the company. He turned out to be eloquent and witty. He fended off potentially problematic questions adroitly and answered the question about the missing male solo in the first movement in the previous evening's (July 19) Symphony in C by simply stating, "It will be there tonight." (And it was.) Alexei's father, Nicolai, was himself a star of the Bolshoi, and was especially priced as a partner by ballerinas of his generation. He now serves as a coach with the company. When asked about this Alexei answered, with a naughty twinkle in his eyes, "Yes, I am my father's boss, but I treat him very respectfully." The company's morale and level of dancing has obviously benefited from Alexei's stewardship, and it is to be hoped that he will continue to be artistic chief for many years to come. Nina's loss (and she still grieves for it) is the whole company's gain.

Those who still wonder why we've called Nina the Complete Ballerina need only to have seen her in all her roles this summer to understand. She utilized her impeccable technique to turn movement into art again and again --- to subtly but clearly delineate her irrepressible Kitri, her sweetly gentle Sylphide, her majestic Swan Queen, her ebulliently carefree Medora, her passionate Juliet. Her Giselle has evolved into one of the most convincingly danced interpretations, and she continues to conquer Balanchine roles. Her mastery of various styles and moods is simply unparalleled. We are truly privileged to be ballet lovers in the era of Ananiashvili.