Galas are becoming a frequent occurrence in the ballet world these days, but how many times do you have the chance to see Pavlova, Graham, Fonteyn and Nureyev on the same program? Such a rare opportunity is provided by a movie, "Great Dance Stars on Film," produced by Robert Leverone with a running commentary provided by noted dance critic Walter Terry, live and in person. It was shown last night at Kennedy Center's American Film Institute Theatre in a gala benefit for the Metropolitan Academy of Ballet.
Leverone has compiled an enticing mixture of nine excerpts of dance films that range from "greatest hits" to little-known gems. The films opens with the 1930 "Ballet Class," which features aspiring ballerina Agnes De Mille. Another rarely seen excerpt is a 1941 Warner Bros. short of Leonide Massine's "Cappricio Espagnol" in which the choreographer and other famous Ballets Russes stars stamp and swirl through gypsy and Spanish dances. Later, there is a long, leisurely look at the lyrical Galina Ulanova and the fiery Maya Plisetskaya in several scenes from the Soviet ballet "The Fountain of Bakhchisarai."
What gala would be complete without "The Dying Swan"? Pavlova dances it, and five other pieces, in a 1923 silent film. Alicia Markova in the Sugar Plum Fairy's variation; Martha Graham in a study of her famous solo "Lamentation;" Ruth St. Denis in three famous solos, including the "Nautch"; Jose Limon dancing an almost-complete version of his "The Moore's Pavane," and Fonteyn and Nureyev in a 1964 film of their famous "Le Corsaire" pas de deux completed the bill of fare.