Alexander Godunov will not be dancing at the Kennedy Center Honors gala Sunday evening after all, it turns out. It had been announced Wednesday that the Russian artist would be making his first stage appearance here since his August defection from the Bolshoi Ballet, partnering American Ballet Theatre ballerina Gelsey Kirkland in the "Don Quixote" pas de deux.
But George Stevens Jr., who is producing the gala, said yesterday that the pair had canceled out because Kirkland didn't feel up to dancing after the couple's three days of rehearsal in New York. Stevens added there was not enough time to find and rehearse a new partner for Godunov.
Kirkland, a leading American ballerina, has reneged on performance commitments at the last minute not infrequently in recent seasons.
Godunov, meanwhile -- said to be in a "deep funk" -- has apparently retreated from sight. Even his American manager, Edgar Vincent, was reportedly unable to contact him yesterday.
Reports and rumors about Godunov's state of mind and intentions were flying transcontinentally. A London Daily Mail corresondent in Moscow reported that according to Godunov's wife, Bolshoi ballerina Lyudmila Vlasova, her husband was ready to "undefect" -- that he had arranged with Soviet authorities to return to Russia next June. Later reports had Vlasova denying she'd given the interview on which the story was based.
Vlasova, returned to Moscow last August after her husband's defection a three-day confrontation between U.S. and Soviet officials at JFK airport while she was detained aboard a jet.
Both Vlasova, in Moscow, and Vincent, in New York, confirmed that the couple had been in phone contact. Vincent said Godunov was "terribly lonely" for his wife and left town Thursday night for parts unknown, feeling insulted by Kirkland's action and very upset about this latest turn of affairs which once again (after the ABT labor troubles), had frustrated his desire to dance in this country.