There was little clear-cut about the results of Moscow's Fifth International Ballet Competition -- no grand prize, no choreography award, no special prize from the ministry of culture. Some prizes were shared, others not awarded. One appeared to be what one cynic called a "thanks for showing up" prize.
Overall, ballet followers declared this a weak year, with no Baryshnikov or Makarova to warm the audience and melt the critics. Not a single woman dancer won a medal unshared, indicating female competition was less than memorable.
Monday morning critics grumbled about the judging, about the winners, about the way the orchestra played on the competition's last night, and about the way the audience grumbled audibly at the orchestra during the performance.
"The audience in Leningrad is not like that," said Sergei Vikharev, of Leningrad's Kirov Ballet, who took a second prize in the soloist category. "They would keep quiet."
The problem with the orchestra was tempo: it kept changing, especially during the black swan pas de deux from "Swan Lake." The repeated shifts threw off two dancers from the Pittsburgh Ballet -- Maria Teresa del Real from the United States and Pavlo Savoye from France, whose performance in the tournament's second round had been a house favorite.
Savoye, who trained at the American ballet school for three years, shared a silver prize in the men's division. Del Real, the product of a Cuban emigre' family living in Puerto Rico, won an award from Soviet Ballet magazine.
Li Cunxin, who came to Houston from China in 1979 and is now a principal with the Houston Ballet, shared a bronze medal for soloists with Chjao Minhua of China. The Chinese, competing this year for the first time, won two of the 19 official prizes.
The big winners were the Soviet dancers, who made up half the 24 finalists and received a solo prize each.
The non-Soviet superstar was Julio Bocca, a dazzling 18-year-old dancer from Argentina whose poise and virtuosity received accolades from both his competitors and the audience.
But on the whole, the audience was less than pleased. On the last night, when the winners danced their celebration performances, only lukewarm applause greeted the Soviet ballerinas sharing the gold prize. Yoko Morimoto of Japan, who had shared a silver prize in the women's division, got a big hand -- which some saw as a deliberate message of displeasure to the judges.
In the ballet world there was more talk -- that the faulty conducting of the orchestra had been a deliberate effort by the Bolshoi theater establishment, which runs the competition, to impede non-Bolshoi dancers.
Dancers and specialists alike dismissed the theory as too Byzantine even for the dance world. But they were still disheartened by the convoluted awards system, which hinted strongly at tangled compromises put together by a tired multilingual jury during Tuesday's early morning hours.
"It was too political," said Li after the competition. "I am not complaining for myself, but I think it was too Soviet-slanted."
"I just hate it that Maria did not get a prize," said Savoye, looking fondly at his partner.
But if non-Soviets felt miffed by the prizes, or orchestra, or the Bolshoi's rough, slanting wooden stage, the Soviet dancers had their problems, too.
Andris Liepa, a member of the Bolshoi Theatre and son of the famous Bolshoi dancer Maris Liepa, said the home-court advantage was more a burden than a help, though he shared a silver prize.
Vikharev, 23, who won the silver for soloists, talked of the responsibility of representing the Kirov on the stage of its great rival, the Bolshoi.
For Vadim Pisarev, 20, a Donetsk Ballet dancer with a remarkable leap, sharing the gold prize for soloist was an unalloyed pleasure.
At a reception for the contestants Wednesday night, he happily traded pins with visiting dancers and accepted compliments from visiting tourists.
"Just tell him," said one lady visiting from Mississippi, "that we have never seen anyone like him back home."