REMEMBERING THE GREAT MAYA PLISETSKAYA

View From The Wing
REMEMBERING THE GREAT MAYA PLISETSKAYA

by Pablo A. Tariman

Russian dance icon Maya Plisetskaya died on May 2 — on the same day the whole world is waiting with bated breath the result of the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.

In a way, Plisetskaya’s death defined the big difference between ennobling art and glorified gambling.

Maya Plisetskaya's Dying Swan. The dance legend is gone at 89.

Maya Plisetskaya’s Dying Swan. The dance legend is gone at 89.

When she danced and later died, she was engulfed with beautiful memories of fanatic fans cheering her art.

In the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, the world saw Mafias of gambling fighting over revenues and with fans from both sides spending millions in heavy betting.

Plisetskaya became a prima at age 40 and danced lead roles through her late 60s including one of her last Dying Swans in 1982 at the CCP.

Clearly one of the greatest ballerinas of the century, Plisetskaya reprised her acclaimed role to great adulation from Filipino audiences.The applause wouldn’t stop and so she encored the less than five-minute piece Dying Swan and still the applause lingered. It seemed to last forever.

One reported the CCP event as a case of a swan dying twice due to overwhelming popular demand.

The once Prince of Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov, also remarked on his face book that Plisetskaya was “one of the greatest dancers of our time … beautiful and graceful.”

Pierre Cardin with Maya Plisetskaya: the prima ballerina assoluta is also the muse of one distinguished icon of the fashion world.

Pierre Cardin with Maya Plisetskaya: the prima ballerina assoluta is also the muse of one distinguished icon of the fashion world.

Plisetskaya was last seen on stage during her 75th birthday performance in 2000. She is survived by her husband, composer Rodion Shchedrin.

The prima ballerina wasn’t just the muse of the ballet world.

Fashion designer Pierre Cardin’s known muse was Plisetskaya and for a good reason. Indeed few people know that the famous designer made over 30 visits to Moscow during his career. They met at her open air performance after which Pierre was left mesmerized. Cardin and Plisetskaya kept in touch by paying each other visits in France and Moscow.

This writer was another fanatic of Plisetskaya’s Dying Swan that he asked Ballet Manila’s Lisa Macuja Elizalde if she could dance it as one of her swan song series. At first she didn’t like the idea but my constant appeal made her agree. She did Dying Swan in 2012 and 2014 with pianist Cecile Licad and cellists Wilfredo Pasamba and Francisco Llorin to great audience acclaim.

Macuja noted that ‘The Dying Swan’ is a choreographic masterpiece that only few ballerinas touch because it is very difficult to do. “You have to be convincing. It is impossible to be convincing at dying when you are still very young and haven’t experienced life.”

Maya Plisetskaya being given welcome leis at the NAIA by the author accompanied by then CCP president and now National Artist for Dance Lucrecia Kasilag.

Maya Plisetskaya being given welcome leis at the NAIA by the author accompanied by then CCP president and now National Artist for Dance Lucrecia Kasilag.

She said she was attracted to the piece because of the very sad music of Saint-Sëans and the choreographic miniature where the whole story was told in three minutes. “The attack is very different from ‘Swan Lake.’ I think it is just hard to be weak and still dance at the same time. It is hard to portray physical weakness when you are doing something so athletic like dancing on your toes. Also, you hardly go off pointe during the entire piece. That can be painful.”

Macuja added “Dying Swan” just came at the right time of her dancing career. “The idea of doing it later in my dancing life was first mentioned by Natalia Raldugina, my guest ballet mistress from St. Petersburg late last year. She was the one who suggested I create my version of ‘The Dying Swan’ for concerts. But, I hesitated. Then, you suggested it to be performed in ‘The Legends & the Classics’ and I thought it was brilliant! Really correct timing and opportunity to combine forces with distinguished artists like Pasamba and Licad.”

The 1982 CCP souvenir program of Maya Plisetskaya. Her death marks the end of a dance era.

The 1982 CCP souvenir program of Maya Plisetskaya. Her death marks the end of a dance era.

Novelist Truman Capote remembered a similar Plisetskaya performance in Moscow, seeing “grown men crying in the aisles and worshiping girls holding crumpled bouquets for her.”

Capote saw her as “a white spectre leaping in smooth rainbow arcs”, with “a royal head.” She said of her style that “the secret of the ballerina is to make the audience say, ‘Yes, I believe.’”

The late Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev one said that “Plisetskaya was not only the best ballerina in the Soviet Union, but the best in the world.”

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