In a move akin to swimming upstream in a hurricane, the St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre of Konstantin Tachkine has set out to save classical ballet. Tachkine, a businessman and ballet fan disappointed in what he was seeing from Russia's great classical companies, founded the troupe in 1994, a time when ballet, in many places, was floundering without direction.

On Monday night, the fledgling company danced a program of excerpts and one new work to an enthusiastic, sold-out house at Montgomery College's Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center. It's an appealing, but uneven, group. Some of the dancers are a bit provincial, some only a year out of school and quite green.

What the company does have, however, in addition to some beautiful costumes, is a consistent, old-school style. In contrast to the gymnastic, hard-sell approach of much contemporary ballet, its dancing is restrained and harmonious; the arms and upper body are as alive as the feet and legs. For this alone, one can forgive many sins.

The company has as yet no stars, but several very promising youngsters. Sergei Pevnev's quiet, powerful virtuosity with its hint of hidden danger was the most electric. Naizov Novfel, one of the recent graduates, danced three leading roles with the nobility and masculine grace of a true ballet prince. Lada Makhotina was musical and piquant in the Paquita pas de trois, and Mai Yabuuchi was fresh and charming in everything she danced. The troupe's ballerina, Tatiana Princ, danced her solo from "Aurora's Wedding" beautifully, but looked as though she were dying to sneak in just one good, high kick.

Peggy Wilis-Aarnio's "The Diamond Ballet," for six couples to a score by Karl Jenkins that also serves as background music to a TV commercial, is classical in vocabulary and postmodern in form. The music is frenetic and the dancers never stop bounding about--an idea more suggestive of popcorn than diamonds. The ballet might look less busy on a larger stage, but the piece lacks dynamics and uses the dancers mostly as a pack without allowing for the individuality that is one of the glories of classical ballet.