Three years ago, when the Russian choreographer and dancer Yuli Vzorov immigrated to the U.S., he announced his plans to form a ballet school and a professional ballet company in the Washington area. His plans were given a significant boost last month when Montgomery County awarded Vzorov's Bolshoi School of Ballet in Bethesda $86,358 in federal funds under Title VI of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA).
With the CETA grant Vzorov has established the Rhythm Ballet Company, which will tour Montgomery County, offering Washington area residents their first opportunity to see the work of this talented artist, who was named the 1972 laureate of Russia's choreography competition.
The company's name has special significance for Vzorov, who formed his first Rhythm Ballet Company in Moscow in 1965. He directed and toured with the company until 1969, when he was sent to Siberia. There he founded another Rhythm Ballet Company, which he worked with until his return to Moscow in 1972, when he reformed the first company.
Vzorov answers questions about his immigration with a story that neatly sidesteps political complications.
"In Russia I always hear, 'Vzorov talented but has western stuff in repertory.' I was so often told and so I must go and see if I am so western," Yet, I come here and I see nothing the same."
Vzorov and his wife Luba, who both graduated from the Bolshoi School of Ballet in Moscow and were major figures in the Russian ballet world, started their school in Bethesda a few months after they arrived here. The school has just moved to a new location, which has three dance studios, at 5204 River Rd. in Bethesda.
As word of Vzorov's presence here has spread, young dancers have come to study with him.
Addiso Hoffman, who studied on a scholarship with the American Ballet Theater and the Hartford Chamber Ensemble, came because he wanted the technique whihc zoro offered.
"I've never improved so much in my life," said Hoffman of his year with Vzorov. "He demands that we be perfect. He says, "You can do it; if you can't, you're not working hard enough.'"
For Hoffmann and the other dancers-students, the CETA positions with the Rhythm Ballet offer an opportunity to work at dance full-time.
"This CETA thing has been a real blessing," said Sally Burton Neff. "It gives us a chance to survive without two jobs so we can concentrate our energies on dance."
Neff came to study with Vzorov in the summer of 1976 after reading an article about him in a dance magazine. A teacher of dance at the Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music, Neff said she felt the need for more ballet training.
"You don't have to be around Yuli long to realize how incredible he is," she said. "Movement just flows from him. He choreographs the classes; he also shows us everything full out, does everything completely to the last finger."
The CETA grant also means the opportunity to work and tour on a consistent basis for the next seven months.
"We are a company now," said Neff.
"We'll be able to present ourselves as such, have that kind of confidence."
The company is preparing seven ballets for its tour and series of lecture-demonstrations throughout Montgomery County. The ballets, all choreographed by Vzorov, include "Kansas City 1900," a western melodrama set to an American folk medley; "Mozart and Salieri," a Pushkin scenario depicting the poisoning of Mozart by Salieri and using Mozart's "Requiem in D," and a two-act rock ballet with music by a comtemporary Polish composer named Scoliarski.
The other dancer-trainees with the Rhythm Ballet are Francis McKey, Peter Romero, Bruce Thompson, Jean Wolbier, Cecil King, Helen Ann Barcay and Betty Richmond Rager. Karen Strawson is an instructor with the company; John Boon, its pianist, and William Leroux, the coordinator.
The company will set a performance schedule in the coming weeks. Anyone interested in an appearance, which under the CETA grant is free of charge, should call Leroux at 652-3336.