Problem Solving

An Encounter With the Bolshoi Ballet

Gianni Truvianni asked:

who have read my articles may gather am a tremendous opera fan though in all sincerity I can not claim to be an equal devotee of the ballet, however this should not be interpreted that I do not take joy from it. Perhaps it is because my tastes lean more to the passion of the singers and the drama in the opera rather then the grace of the ballet dancer. What ever the reason I must claim to be a bigger opera fan then ballet fan but in all truth I am a lover of the ballet however I did not become one till I in Santiago, Chile met the members of the Bolshoi ballet. This was a time I will never forget as it made me see all the grace of the ballet however before this encounter with the Bolshoi I had seen them perform in Moscow and perhaps it is there that I was introduced to the ballet. My decision to visit the Soviet Union came during the fall of 1988. It was the time of perestroika, glasnosts and Michael Gorbachov, the new leader of the Soviet Union who many Americans had taken a liking to as they could see a certain honesty in him. I for my part can not claim that my desires to visit the Soviet Union were influenced in any way by Gorbachov as the real reason for my trip was based on my wanting to travel the world, in search of all those cities and places I had read about in my extensive readings of history. Of course this was also at a time in my life when I was entertaining dreams of becoming a professional photographer and had it in mind to take photographs of Leningrad (previously called Petrograd, presently Saint Petersburg) and Moscow. These cities seemed ideal for this purpose, both having architecture that was so diverse from New York and the feeling of history would be enormous. After all these were two cities that had been almost in the center of World War II and the Russian revolutions of 1917. The first of which overthrew Nicholas II while the second in October (though the Russian Orthodox calendar marks this day as having been in November) put the Bolsheviks in power. I had even wanted to visit the Soviet Union before but the matter had not been so simple as I would have wanted it. First off all because the Soviet Union was a closed society I needed a visa; not that this was an inconvenience as I had already visited many other communist countries such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the DDR, and Yugoslavia. These countries also requiring me as an American to have a visa. I can even add how there was a time in 1987 in which I as an American was required to have a visa in to order to enter France as opposed to being given one automatically upon entrance as was the case with most European countries. The Soviet Union however was different, even from other communist countries which only required me to go to their embassy or consulate, naturally with my passport, two photographs and the money to pay for the visa. The Soviet Union not only required me to have the already mentioned but a prepaid hotel where I would be staying, which basically meant that I would either have to reserve a hotel in the cities I wanted to go to before departing New York or go on what is commonly referred to as a “guided tour”. I not so much by my own choice took the second option of going on the guided tour even if in all truth I would have preferred to go alone. It was with the intension of spending Christmas and New Year’s day in the Soviet Union that I in early November booked myself on a tour that would include Moscow, Kiev and Leningrad, in that order. It was while visiting these cities in the Soviet Union that I observed many things, some of which were even strange or at least in my opinion for a communist country (me having already visited several) for instance, in the Soviet Union there were stores which only accepted hard currency (this meaning any currency which could be converted outside its country of origin) and were off limits to Soviet citizens. Yes, passports were checked upon entrance in to the stores. It was not that stores like this did not exist in Poland or other communist countries I had visited but contrary to the Soviet Union in those countries anybody could buy what they wished so long as they had the right kind of currency, in the Soviet Union it was a case of Soviets not even being allowed to enter the stores, let alone make purchases of any kind. Naturally just as there were stores in which only foreigners such as myself could enter, there were also stores in which foreigners were banned from as only Soviets could enter and again passports or documents were checked. I even recall how on one occasion, somebody I met asked me to buy him something in the store for foreigners only. The Soviet Union also had other factors which made it different from any of the Communist countries I had already visited for instance again only guests of hotels were allowed to enter as a control was set up at the entrance where one was obliged to show one’s card from the hotel. This however did not present so much of a problem for me nor for many Soviets (I refer to them as such as I can not in all honesty claim to have known who was Russian or from one of the many republics that made up the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) who managed to get in to the hotel in spite of not being a guest of the hotel. Where the card required to enter the hotel was not a problem the fact that I was required to pay everything in hard currency was however more then slightly annoying as this made prices higher then they would have been had I been allowed to buy drinks or other such niceties in Rubbles, which I could get a lot more of on the black market. This however was not to be as hotels wanted hard currency not only for the cost of the room but even for what one purchased in them, this being in contrast to Polish hotels were one was only required to pay for the room in hard currency. It was in Moscow that I stayed in a hotel called “Cosmos” which I might add was the most exclusive at the time, though in all truth its standards were lower then those which I had known in the west. I arrived at the hotel on the 24th of December and on my second day of being in Moscow after having spent the first two sightseeing; I had what could be called my first experience in the Soviet Union. Two young men who must have been about my age at time (me being 21) knocked on the hotel room which I was sharing with one of the members of my tour group. It was in the company of another member of my tour that these two young men came asking if my roommate and I cared to barter trade. At first neither my roommate nor I knew what these two men had in mind and being in a country we knew not to be democracy; my American roommate, whose name completely escapes me and I were slightly apprehensive. It was one of these two young men who asked us if we had any blue jeans or anything we cared to trade such as American cigarettes or basically anything. I for my part felt I had nothing that would be worth their while as all I had was my cameras (which I was not ready to trade for anything), a couple of packs of cigarettes (me being a smoker at the time), the clothes I had brought with me (which included a pair of grey blue jeans that frankly speaking I was even slightly ashamed to even show given the condition they were in) and my cassettes which included some pop music. It did not take long with these two men and all those from my tour group who had come over to pick up a bargain; for the room I was sharing with a history teacher from Phoenix to become an national or international black market. Blue jeans were being exchanged for Russian fur hats, caviar (this being a French word as the Russian word is “ikra”) and other Russian goodies. It was inspired by the way these two Russians or so I think they were apparently willing to take just about any and everything we had that I decided to show them the old grey jeans I had bought over a year ago in London. Much to my near shock they accepted to take them for a black fur hat though given they were old they did ask me to throw in some
thing extra which I did in the form of
a pack of Marlboro which they accepted but however my having guilty feelings over the old jeans compelled me to add a tape by the British band known as “Led Zeppelin”. During these transactions; I noticed how people from two different countries and ways of life could trade and do business and though the English spoken by these two gentlemen was not exactly perfect it was understandable, making me think how even in a communist system it was always possible to find entrepreneurs. I even recall how one of the members of my group wanted to get something in exchange for a Jimmy Hendrix tape only to find out that neither of these two men (who had brought so much stuff with them as to make one believe they had a whole store with them) had the slightest idea who he was. Naturally we explained that Jimmy Hendrix had been a guitar player and they did take the tape though I do not recall what they gave for it. Of course it should be understood that these young men were not getting these things for themselves but to sell to others. One thing did strike my roommate at the time as being curious which prompted him to ask if they were staying in the hotel to which he was told by one of these two young men that they were not. It was then that I asked how they managed to get in the hotel, me having been told that only hotel guests who showed a card from the hotel were allowed in. It was then that they told us that because their English was not bad and in fact it was not and they dressed like westerns they could get in and obviously they had. Later on I would meet two other young men in the hotel who were also trying to do what ever business they could and it was from them that I really learnt a lot about how people in the Soviet Union felt toward not only Americans but many things. It might seem strange to some how I do not even remember the names of these two young men or even what they looked like but I remember almost everything that transpired between the three of us. First I went with them to Red Square instead of going with my group; after all if I had wanted to associate with other Americans, one can imagine where I would have stayed. Many things had I seen through out my travels in many countries, from the Coliseum in Rome (now one of the world’s seven new wonders) to the Eiffel Tower but neither of these two monuments or any other which I had seen for that matter could surpass the grandness of “Red Square”. The place as I observed it on that frozen day in the month of December seemed so overwhelming that I honestly was at a loss for words. It was not that the Kremlin or any of the buildings surrounding it; such as the one being hailed as the world’s biggest toy store or even Saint Basel’s cathedral were that large but the composition created by all that was Red Square had such a strong initial impact on me that I will never forget. It was mesmerizing to see this place and all its features that for a moment gave me the impression of being in a city above the clouds. The ornaments on the buildings being such that they almost seemed unreal. I naturally after having recovered slightly from my near shock took out my trusty Minolta to photograph this place and all it included; which in all honesty even looked like a small town rather then a large monument. It was in the process of photographing this place that I started with a wide angle lens; as to capture it all in one shot and then moved on to a zoom to get Saint Basil’s cathedral; the beauty of which in my opinion is most underrated. Needless to say my camera captured all of Red Square’s points of interest but none fascinated me as much as Saint Basil’s which to my mind was the typical Russian cathedral. Naturally in all that was Red Square one could not ignore the presence of the mausoleum dedicated to Lenin; which was visited by the thousands who would bare the cold and heat just to see the body of a dead man. As for myself personally I had neither the time or the inclination to stand on a line; even a short one as was the one for foreigners (as opposed to the other one for Soviet citizens) just to see a man in what in my opinion was an act of idolatry. Unsurprisingly by then the Soviet Union having long gone through a process of change had removed the remains of Joseph Stalin from Lenin’s presence, not that this made any difference to me at the time or even now for that matter. After their acting as my personal tour guide, they took me to a small neighborhood restaurant in Moscow, sort of like a bistro (this French word having its roots in a Russian word meaning fast) where we had some sausage and tea. It was there as opposed to the hotel that I discovered how cheap life could be in Moscow for someone who had US dollars or any other kind of western currency, so much so that I wanted to treat my tour guides to what they had consumed only to discover it was them who wanted to do likewise for me. At first I did not really know what to say and asked if I could pay at least for myself but was told it would be a good idea not to offend them by refusing their invitation. This I did agree to. It was during our time together that we discovered many things about each other’s countries, for instance they discovered that New York was not as dangerous a place to live in as they had been lead to believe by American television and their own media while I was also not excluded from finding find out many interesting things. First off all that Soviets, at least the people were not as anti-American as I had thought they would be and what really surprised me was that despite his popularity in America, specially after his last trip which had taken place a few weeks before; Gorbachov was not really liked in the Soviet Union by the average citizen, specially those who were not in the party. This at first seemed almost hard to believe as during his last trip to America (which had taken place on the 8th of December) people had literally lined the streets by the thousands in spite of the cold just to get a glimpse of him, in scenes reminiscent of “Beatlemania” at its peak. I for my account had even gone to where I knew his car would be passing in the hope of getting a photograph. Mine however was done more out of wanting to be a photographer then adoration, this in part motivated by the success I had had the same year in London when on Queen Elizabeth’s birthday of the 10th of June I managed to get a great shot head shot as she was coming down “The Mall” in her open carriage. Gorbachov however was a different matter all together as he was being driven in a closed limo, which made it impossible for me to be able to get any kind of photograph other then one of his car. I even remembered hearing on the news, how he while being driven through Broadway had actually gotten out of his car (much to my regret for not being there to capture on film this historic moment) on a day of extreme cold to shake the hands of some of the thousands who were lining the streets just to get a glimpse of him. This naturally caused joy to a lot while panic to his security guards who were as surprised as those who found themselves shaking hands with Gorbachov. It had been a case that Gorbachov had not informed his security of what he would do beforehand and due to this many of the security cars had driven on only to discover after a few seconds that Gorbachov’s car had stopped and that Gorvachov now found himself in the middle of a mob shaking hands with all those who were running up to him. As expected his security had to backtrack themselves to get to him in fear that something might happen which of course did not but I can imagine what anxiety they might have been going through at the time. Among these people there were also protestors from some of the Soviet republics such as Armenia; who even claimed that they felt for the first time that there was a man who at least was willing to hear what they had to say. After hearing that Gorbachov for the most part was not liked I asked what was it about him that most people did not li
ke and to this question I encountered an answer that I did not really understand a
t the time and that was that most people did not like Gorvachov simply because his personal standard of living was a lot higher then their own. It was not because of political reasons or ideology or anything of the sort but the luxury he had surround himself in. They mentioned how he flew around the world and they could not, how he had a fur coats, a credit card by American Express (given to him I imagine mostly as publicity), expensive clothes while they did not. I at that point did not see anything strange or unusual in this as in America most Americans did not live as well as our president (Ronald Reagan at the time) and if some did not like him; it definitely was not for that reason. There might have been other reasons such as the “Iran Contra scandal” but that was another matter but not because he made more money then they did as this was and still is the case in most countries. This however was a case of what most people had come to accept in most countries that it did not matter that their leaders were financially better off then they were so long as their own standard was acceptable to them. However here in the Soviet Union people did not even want to know that their leaders had more then they did even if it was the top leader. This perhaps was the explanation why Soviet citizens were not allowed to enter certain stores, restaurants or hotels, as they would be exposed to what they could not afford anyway and perhaps that their system of financial equality was not really working all that well. I for my own did not comment on what I had heard; preferring to say nothing since I had not really understood the mentality behind the words and rather then get in to a quarrel with those who had treated me to this humble but pleasant lunch I asked what they thought of American films. This they told me they had seen some but several were being banned such as had been the case with “Red Heat” staring Arnold Schwarzenegger due to a scene in which the character played by Arnold (a Soviet policeman) trades a 10 dollar watch for a 1,000 dollar watch with an American policeman, played by Jim Belushi. I was curious how these two young men even knew about this scene, if they had not seen the film but this I did not ask. It was after having a nice meal (which was no worse then what I was getting in the hotel) in this friendly neighborhood place that I took a chance and went to the apartment of one of these two young men to get what they had promised me which was a Soviet military winter coat and a Jersey of the national football team. I having not much of anything to trade offered them American dollars which they did not refuse however we would have to go back to my hotel to get as I did not have them on me. It was when going back to the hotel that I rode the Moscow subway for the first time and was amazed at how often the trains came and how deep it was, a factor which I knew had not been undesirable during World War II given the bombing this city had been submitted to by the German air force. Upon return to the hotel I paid them the money I had promised them plus a pack of “Life Savers” in a gesture after theirs which had been to pay for my sausage and tea. Once concluded, the business of trade by barter with the hour being not far from an evening one I decided to shower and get ready for a night at the ballet. The bolshoi; it would be as if it could be any other being in Moscow, naturally at the Bolshoi (this word meaning great in Russian) theatre. With this in mind I put on my suit, the only one I had brought with me, a nice Cardin (him still being fashionable at the time) on top of which I put on my newly acquired military coat courtesy of the Soviet Union however; it was on the advise of our tour guide that I chose to wear another one. Him telling me that we were in a country were civilians specially foreigners were not allowed to wear Soviet military attire; meaning that it would be wise if I were to put on another coat which I did. The Bolshoi, I must say was something amazing, not so much the theatre which granted was large but not really impressive or at least not as much as the performance given by this magnificent group of dancers whom both my father and grandfather had always told me so much about. Tchaikovsky’s “The Nut Cracker” was what those in my group as well I were privileged enough to see that evening and though I was already familiar with the wonderful music; I was not so much with the dancing that went with it and as I watched, it seemed that this was the most radiant of all the performing arts in regards to its visual aspect. After the ballet, it was back to Hotel Cosmos for a night cap which I took at the bar; shots of Vodka accompanied by caviar which in America was so expensive but in the Soviet Union was literally cheaper then peanuts. The hotel had several bars, and it was in each that there were women, some I could imagine were there to exchange other then just souvenirs for money, while others went in groups looking for any westerner to buy them a drink. By “them” I mean all of them as they came in groups though this did not interest me other then just to see that women in the Soviet Union wore what I would call an excessive amount of make up; despite most of them being much more attractive then the average American woman. The following day came and off to Kiev it was on a plane by Aeroflot. It was something I will never forget; being on the runway and dozing off in my seat during the long wait which was required before take off, when suddenly I was awaken by the feeling of my ears getting blocked by the pressure. I remember being slightly upset; thinking that we had probably spent all that time on the ground and only then was the plane going to take off when the reality was that it was already going to land. Such a smooth take off and flight it was that not only had it not awaken me, I had not even noticed it or it could have been the fact that my cold was making my very drowsy along with my lack of sleep from the night before. Kiev was an interesting city though perhaps not as much as Moscow; but on that particular visit the only thing I recall was being far away from my hotel; me always the one to wonder from the rest and asking a Soviet policeman if he could find me a cab which much to my surprise he did. It being on one that was taking several passengers; in a sort of improvised transportation like I had known in countries like Argentina and Peru. As for the policeman, he told me in broken English how he was from Armenia, a place that had suffered from the effects of an earthquake the previous month, which made me tell him how I had in fact donated 20 USD to a relief organization. I do not know if this man really understood me but when saying goodbye in gratitude for his having found me this means of transportation I handed him one of my packs of cigarettes; which made him give me a small pen knife (which did not even open) in the shape of a fish as he said the word “souvenir” and went off. With Kiev being smaller then both Leningrad and Moscow, our stay was planed to last only one night after which we would be departing for Leningrad. I really can not say what it was in me that night which I was to stay in Kiev that made me do what I eventually did. This being to get what could be classified as extremely drunk. Vodka did I consume and plenty of it; perhaps to show that Italian Americans like their Soviet counter parts could also hold their liquor but what ever it was I did get sauced. In this elbow bending I do seem to recall a Soviet who also engaged in the same as I did after which we started a conversation in trying to solve who were more daft? Me claiming that it was Americans (me referring to those in my tour group) while he made the case for Russians; only to settle the issue by proclaiming a draw between Americans and Russians as to who were the more dippy. In this night that would go down with a certain degree of perhaps over joy my Soviet comrade and I also entertained ourselves by smashing our vodka glasses on the ground, whi
ch only managed to draw the attention of some policem
en. Police however were called Militia at the time in the Soviet Union and two of them did approach us and when I could not understand what they were saying one of them, caught my off guard with a punch to the stomach. That by all accounts should have knocked the wind out of me. This probably would have been the effect during other circumstances but on that day after half a bottle of Vodka, I did not feel the blow which showed on my face as I did not even bend over in pain. This my reaction which almost sent this policeman in to shock as was clear on his face before I tried to strike at him with my camera, after all he was much bigger then me who only stands at 5’6”. Fortunately nothing became of the incident as the receptionist informed these policemen that I was a guest at the hotel and not some peddler (as they figured) who had come in to trade dollars, which of course was illegal at the time. Leningrad and the last stop on our Soviet trip before our return to the states. Leningrad I must say was more interesting at least from my point of view then Moscow. The city itself was different; after all this had been the capital of the country during the revolutions though that was the past even then as at that time the Winter Palace was the Hermitage. With the Hermitage being one of the world’s largest museums I could not help but spend one whole afternoon there out of the three I had; though one would really require more time to fully appreciate the entire museum. In Leningrad, I was fortunate enough to be given a hotel room which unlike the one in Moscow and Kiev I did not have to share with any of the members from my group. This factor would prove advantageous as I would go on to meet two very lovely young ladies from Kiev by the names of Victoria Ibanchenko and Svetlana. It was with these two friends that I would spend three very lustful evenings (two with Victoria, One with Svetlana), thanks to which I would draw inspiration for “Svetlana Ibanchenko”. Svetlana Ibanchenko being a fictional Russian soprano in my book “New York’s Opera Society”. There was something so romantic yet beautiful in these two that their dreams and ambitions took over me as I was creating this small but important character in my first book. Tragedy would also fill my stay in Leningrad as it was there that I found out that an American airplane (Pan Am) had been the victim of a bomb along with all of the passengers while flying over Scotland. At that moment there was little for me to do but be grateful that it was not I who had been on that flight and continue with the good time I was having; which is precisely what I did. The last night I would spend in Leningrad as I would be leaving the following evening was one I which will stay with me forever. My group and I went to see the Kirov ballet and what an experience it was. The Kirov was no less grand then the Bolshoi though different. My father had told me when I asked him that the difference was that the Kirov was more artistic while the Bolshoi was more dynamic and this I could see as I witnessed their performance of another Tchaikovsky piece; this time “Swan Lake” and what a show it was. They seemed to float in the air; almost as if they could fly and had an energy about them which let them to do as they wished with their bodies with such grace that it was almost like watching angels. Regarding my last two nights; these two were spent with Victoria and who knows what would have become of our relationship had it not been for the “Iron Curtain” which made it almost impossible for her to come live with me in America. I naturally tried to send her an invitation but even this was difficult given the closed system her country had at the time and though I did not have problems regarding money when it came to inviting Victoria over to the States still the matter was more complicated then I would have ever considered possible. It is hard for me to say what would have happened perhaps Victoria and I would have gone on to get married and have children but then my life would have been another, though also interesting. I for my part wish Victoria Ibanchenko from Kiev all the best in what ever she decided to do with her life. Upon my return to New York I naturally dedicated a lot of my time and money to trying to bring Victoria over to America; who in retrospective I can say I had fallen in love with and though my attempts ended in failure, I can in all sincerity say that I did make every effort to have her be with me in America. Once in New York; I also with the inspiration of having been in the Soviet Union still in me, went to see the world famous “Mosayeb” (Russian folk dance company) who just happened to be performing at “Radio City”. This too like the Bolshoi and Kirov was a performance that left me mesmerized as it combined grace and music in a way that also expressed so much though perhaps in a more modern fashion which was no less impressive. As a strange coincidence I will add that on that evening I bumped in to the man who had been our tour guide in the Soviet Union. Actually so much was my desire to have Victoria come to America and interest in what I had seen in the Soviet Union that I even started taking private lessons in Russian, which would come in very useful many years later in 1992 in Chile. A country I would have never imagined would require me to speak Russian. It was there in Santiago that one day after having taken photographs for one of the newspapers I was in contact with saw a poster advertising an upcoming performance by the Bolshoi. By then I was working as a freelance photographer and was not really planning on seeing the Bolshoi; believing it would be expensive but I was glad to see that they were in town. This being something to practically cheer about as there had been a time in Chile, not long before during the reign of Pinochet in which the Bolshoi and all other things from the Soviet Union were banned. It was on the same day after seeing the poster that I walked in to a shoe store where stood a couple; a woman whose slim body gave away that she must have been a ballerina with a man who had what I would classify as an athletic though not muscular build. In all frankness neither caught my attention till I heard them speaking Russian and it was at that moment that my mind put two and two together. The Bolshoi were in town, this woman was very slim and spoke Russian so it was at that moment that I decided to introduce myself; which I did so using the Russian I had learnt in Poland as well as my private lessons. I managed to get their names; hers being Nina Semizorowa (whom I would later find out was one of the Bolshoi’s biggest stars and their top attraction on that particular tour) and his being one which I have forgotten though he was Nina’s husband. Naturally, my being a photographer at the time made it that I had my camera which I used to get a snap shot of the two. I being ignorant about the ballet at the time did not realize that Nina was such a huge star of the Bolshoi and it was not her humble personality that gave her away either as her husband and her were among the most unassuming people I had ever met. This in spite of or maybe because both of them were stars of the Bolshoi; arguably the best ballet company in the world, where only the best are allowed. The Bolshoi being to ballet what the NBA is to basketball or the “Serie A” is to football, basically a collection of the world’s top talent. As a footnote I might add that an English actress named Joyce Frankenberg (later known as Jane Seymour or “Doctor Quinn” on the TV serial with the same name) was once accepted in to the Bolshoi in which she due to injury was only able to give one performance as a prima ballerina. After having chatted to Nina Semizorowa and her husband I quickly got the photo developed and took it over to the hotel where I knew they were staying and it was there where I got to meet the remaining members of the Bolshoi; who had made the trip to Chile. There was somethin
g about them that I must confess made them among the most interesting people not only to watch dan
ce but to talk to and as I spoke to them one of their managers invited me over for the following day to not only watch them practice but to take photographs as well. It was that following day that I became a ballet fan, maybe it was knowing them and being able to ask them questions along with seeing the dedication they put in to what they did that made me appreciate the ballet all the more. I took many a photograph which would end up in a couple of Chile’s newspapers though in all truth I do not recall which but what mostly stuck out in my mind was the friendships I made with the members of the Bolshoi ballet specially with a very young dancer of twenty years of age by the name of Anna Petrova. It was through one of the member’s of their entourage that she asked if I cared to take her photograph and mail it to her which I naturally agreed to do. Anna was a shy young girl from Leningrad who spoke English well enough to at least hold a conversation which is what we did and what a delight it was as I not only took photographs (using a whole role of film on her) but getting to know her. She being one who could not have exceeded the 5 foot mark by much and whose weight could not have been that much over 100 pounds but in this body held the strength of one who could perform moves of incredible grace as the ballet requires. As far as our conversations were concerned, at least during our first encounter; they mostly centered around ballet with me asking her many question which ranged from what she felt was the difference between the Bolshoi and the Kirov with her telling me that it was difficult to put in to words however it was then that I wanted to try out my father’s theory which she admitted to there being some truth in. I also asked Anna what she felt about the Mosayeb which she claimed to be good but not as good as it had once been 20 years before. Many things were said between Anna and myself that day in a conversation that I found most fascinating but the one answer she gave me which distinguished itself in my mind the most was when I asked her what she thought of American Ballet. It was my question which yielded her reply and it I will never forget as I quote “American, French and British ballet are very strong and good but we’re the best”. A statement which would be hard to dispute prompted my comeback “as is the “dream team” in basketball”. My comment being made as that was the year in which Jordan, Bird, Magic Johnson, Carl Malone and many others showed their incredible talent during the Barcelona Olympic games as the now legendary “dream team”. On that day at the auditorium which had been designated to the Bolshoi; I also got to talk to other members of the Bolshoi; one of them being a friend of Anna’s who told me that he had received several offers from American ballet companies of more money but feared making the move given that he had heard perhaps rightly or wrongly that many American ballet companies went bankrupt. He however was considering the offer made to him by the Geoffrey Ballet but was not sure yet. Other things which this young ballet dancer told me included that he really did not have to watch his diet so much as some of the female dancers and that he felt that there were some dancers in the Bolshoi who had made it not so much because of their dancing abilities but their connections in the party. I of course could not say anything regarding this comment; me not knowing anything with regards but I was surprised at his comment, not so much at what he had stated but that he had at all as I could imagine there was a time, not that long before where one could have been in deep trouble for saying less. The day had been grand but the night would not be less as I was going to be seeing the Bolshoi ballet in action performing scenes from many ballets that included “Swan Lake”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Nutcracker” by Tchaikovsky along with others such as “Giselle” by Adams. I particularly remember this last one given that it was the one that featured my new friend (whom unfortunately I have lost contact with) Anna Petrova in the lead role and what a performance she gave. In saying this however I must confess not to be a connoisseur of the ballet as I am other things such as football or singing or acting; which makes it difficult for me to give an impartial view of her performance that evening but to my eyes she was wonderful in the role she played. She danced like a bubble from a bath, bouncing not even on the stage but in the air as she delighted all those present, one of them being the president of Chile at the time; Patricio Aylwin. To me not only Anna but all the members of the Bolshoi danced not as if they were dancing to the music which was playing for them but as if their dancing was creating the music, such was the coordination between music and the moves that it seemed that they were one in the same. As if they were an image that was being created by the music and how grand it was that night as I got to see something that will last with me till the end of my days and all not only due to the spectacle I witnessed but the bond of friendship that had been created. The following day I went to the Holiday Inn to see off the members of the Bolshoi and specially my friend Anna Petrova; whom I had agreed to meet at a certain hour only to find out that she and the rest of the members of the Bolshoi, were not back from an extended interview they were giving to the Chilean press which lasted over two hours. I however did not mind waiting as it was while I was doing so that I met a man from Chile who had been one of the people responsible for bringing the Bolshoi to Chile. We as one can expect talked about the Bolshoi (in Spanish) and how they had been allowed to come to Chile now that Pinochet was no longer president. Freedom of speech however had not come completely as the government, influenced by the Catholic church had banned the British heavy metal group “Iron Maiden” from playing in Santiago on their 1992 tour of South America. Once my friend Anna returned to the hotel our time was limited to say good bye given her late arrival (which she apologized for) and the fact that she and the rest of the Bolshoi had little time to get to their flight on time. Anna and I went for a walk around the hotel which must have lasted about 15 minutes in which we did not talk about the ballet but our lives and taste in music; her claiming to like Elvis Presley apart from Tchaikovsky and me claiming to be found of Iron Maiden apart from opera and classical music. Unfortunately time was not on our side as I would have liked to take her to a nice place for lunch given, not so much due to my physical attraction toward her but my desire to enjoy her company, however this was not to be as we had to limit ourselves to exchanging addresses, so I could send her the photos I had taken of her. I for my part bought her a flower from a street vendor as a token of the short but friendly time we spent together. I would go on to send her the photographs though in all honesty I am not sure she ever received them as I got no reply from her but this does not matter so much as I was truly enchanted by not only me encounter with the Bolshoi but with Anna Petrova.


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