Farewells make a difference. On Thursday, at the end of its Wolf Trap run and U.S. tour, the Kirov Ballet made only a couple of cast changes in the triple bill it had danced on Wednesday night and added a few encores, but it performed the entire program with a warmth and flourish that were new to us.
"Chopiniana," with Elena Yevteyeva eloquent as the new mazurka and pas de deux dancer, became passionate. "Paquita," with Olga Tcheytchikova and Lyubov Kunakova changing roles (and Kunakova assuming a chic new personality, too), turned into a frolic.
In "Shades" (from "La Bayade re"), the singular Altinay Asylmuratova this time made all the cast assert their talent. A company that creates such richness and variety in a wholly classical program is certainly still a magnificent instrument.
The encores didn't add much to the Kirov's choreographic stature, but one did get the chance to see additional soloists.
The stalwart Elidar Aliev entwined himself with a supple, long-legged odalisque (her identity is one of those Kirov casting secrets) in an excerpt from "The Knight in the Tiger Skin," by company director Oleg Vinogradov.
Evgeny Neff was a liberated Christ figure with six disciples in Boris Eifmann's expressionistic "Albinoni Adagio."
Best was Dimitri Briantsev's humorous "Variations on a Theme from the '30s," with Konstantin Zaklinsky towering like an urban Li'l Abner over Irina Tchistyakova.
Last was Fokine's "The Dying Swan" with Galina Mezentseva.