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Moiseyev Shows How Folk Dance Is Done

By Lisa Traiger
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, February 7, 2005; Page C05

Nobody does it quite like the Moiseyev. The celebrated Moscow-based troupe knows it takes a crowd to wow one. Friday night at George Mason University's Center for the Arts, the 66-dancer touring company, founded almost 70 years ago by Igor Moiseyev, put on a spectacle of folkloric-based dances to rival any Vegas floor show -- minus the skin, smoke and mirrors.

And why not? Moiseyev very nearly taught the world dance: His brand of lively, theatrical choreography, which began as an assemblage of ethnic dances from across the Soviet Union, has been copied by companies of every nationality. But no one can replicate the precision footwork, rocket-propelled jumps, dizzying spins, whip-cracking kicks and swashbuckling squats with as much finesse, speed and virtuosity. Moiseyev, who turned 99 last month, still insists on ballet training for his dancers, lending the troupe a crispness and polish that others can only envy.

Ages ago the company stretched beyond its Soviet and Eastern European roots. With pieces reflecting Argentine, Mexican, Italian and Asian heritage, almost all solely choreographed by Moiseyev, and all performed with an undeniably Russian accent, the dancers' distinctive upper-body lift, even when pounding out a Mexican zapateado, becomes apparent. The new work "Sunchunga" is a company first: Choreographed by Pe In Su, this Korean women's dance focuses on delicate arm and head sweeps but also perfectly suits the near-kitsch Moiseyev favors.

Moiseyev's signature act, "Partisans," a tribute to roving packs of villagers who fought the Nazis, remains a stunner 45 years after its premiere. Clad in full-length molded capes, the dancers skimmed the floor like skaters, engulfing the space with effortless stealth, a band of rebels ready to pounce. The finale, the rousing Ukrainian "Gopak," pulled out the pyrotechnics: traditional squatting kicks, straddle jumps, aerial cartwheels, boot-slapping precision and lightning-fast rows of dancers threading themselves in a tapestry of moving color. While the Moiseyev's dancers are unparalleled among national touring companies, the same cannot be said for the muddy, canned sound system.

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