"Makarova and Company," Natalia Makarova's experiment in ballet entrepreneurship, got off such a dubious start at New York's Uris Theatre Tuesday night that one is hard put to regard it as anything other than a flamboyant curiosity.
The event had been widely trumpeted as the birth of a new classical ballet troupe, a showcase for emerging creative and performing talent that also would set new standards in stylistic refinement based on Makarova's own rich artistic heritage.
What was seen on stage during the opening night of the month-long run, however, was motley amalgam of guest stars, spotty repertory and attractive young dancers of clearly modest attainments.
The hybrid, ill-digested quality of the evening reflected the multitude of ends the new venture was intended to serve. Makarova, reasonably enough, is seeking new outlets for her artistry in the wake of American Ballet Theatre's decision to pass her by as director and appoint Mikhail Baryshnikov instead. She also has expressed the desire to transmit her Leningrad training to a generation of young Americans.
The Nederlander organization, which has footed most of the bill for the new company's undisclosed budget, wants to extend its burgeoning theatrical and dance empire. And the guest stars, including the ones who danced Tuesday evening -- Anthony Dowell, Fernando Bujones, Elisabetta Terabust and Denys Ganio -- are presumably in it for the repertoire novelties, the ever-desirable exposure, and some extra change.
All this was sufficient to attract a fair number of glittery folk to the debut, but it didn't add up to anything very coherent or impressive in the way of a ballet company.
Makarova's staging of Act II from the Kirov version of Petipa's "Paquita" offered by far the most rewarding choreography of the program, but the performance by Bujones, Terabust and such promising newcomers as Nancy Raffa had an uncongealed look this first time out.
Dowell and Makarova, despite their accustomed elegance of deportment in Maurice Bejart's "Sonata No. 5," didn't succeed in bringing the work's neo-classic eccentricities to life. The one premiere of the evening, Lorca Massine's ludicrous gypsy orgy, "Vendetta," to a score by Konstantin Kazansky, looked and sounded like a reject from a Yvonne de Carlo movie.
There are more guest artists, including Cynthia Gregory, Karin Kain and Peter Schaufuss, to come, as well as additional repertory by Balanchine, Barry Moreland, Maya Murdma and Frederick Ashton, in the course of the run.
It's possible the company may yet shape itself into a viable and worthy enterprise. The beginnings, though, were scarcely what you'd call auspicious.