"Sleeping Beauty" (1930) This strange silent movie excerpt features Vecheslova as Aurora. The superimposed score has nothing to do with Tchaikovsky.
"La Bayadere" (1940) Natalya Dudinskaya and Vakhtang Chabukiani are Nikiya and Solor in the Kingdom of the Shades scene. Dudinskaya, a pupil of Vaganova, reputed to have the most advanced technique of her era, was strong (she pulls off five unsupported pirouettes), but she doesn't have the refinement of her contemporary, Ulanova. Chabukiani set a new standard of technique for men, but I prefer him in demi-caractère roles (see "Taras Bulba," below). The precision of the Kirov corps de ballet has come a long way since this film was made.
"Don Quixote" (1980) This performance was recorded late in Ninel Kurgapkina's performing career. She is one of my favorite dancers from the "old days." Occasionally her diminishing technique is evident, but the role of Kitri is still a perfect showcase for her brio and charm.
"Gayane" (1942) Although I'm not thrilled by the choreography or performers in this excerpt from the film of Khachaturian's ballet, I enjoy it because of the sets and costumes and the color quality.
"Chopiniana" (Les Sylphides) (undated) [In "The Glory of the Bolshoi," this clip is dated 1952 and Ulanova's partner is identified as Vladimir Preobrazhenski. Here Preobrazhenski is unidentified, because in 1952, Ulanova had already joined the Bolshoi and Preobrazhenski was a Bolshoi dancer.] I used to think of Ulanova as not being a technician, but I eventually realized that she simply didn't emphasize her technique. What I'm aware of in her dancing is her musicality, lyricism and expressiveness.
"Russlan and Ludmilla" (undated) Gabriela Komleva is the principal dancer in this scene from Glinka's opera. The performance was probably taped toward the end of her career, since all the other dancers have the currently prevalent taller, slender-boned build. However, Komleva was still in excellent form, with a precise technique whose soft, gracious style and apparent lack of effort belied her steely strength. The soloists and corps de ballet are excellent.
"Nutcracker" (undated - 1960's?) Irina Kolpakova (the Kirov's prima ballerina at that time) and her husband, Vladilen Semenov, perform the second act Grand Pas de Deux. They are excellent, but I don't like Vainonen's choreography, with the addition of four cavaliers.
"Don Quixote" (1987) Powerful Tatyana Terekhova dazzles as Kitri in this excerpt from the complete ballet available on video.
"Cinderella" (1976) Kolpakova is lovely and delicate in two excerpts separated by an excerpt with the stepsisters from the opening scene of the ballet.
"Polovtsian Dances" (1983) Borodin's opera "Prince Igor" was a hit when Diaghilev brought it to Paris in 1909, but I can't believe Fokine's repetitive, naïve choreography for the Polovtsian Dances was responsible. Probably the audience was impressed by the music and the beautiful set and costumes. The set in this production is not the original design by Roerich, but is also beautiful.
"The Swan" (undated) Anna Pavlova performs the last minute or so of the famous dance she created (now called "The Dying Swan"). It looks very different from today's performances.
"Chopiniana" (1978) Ksenia Ter-Stepanova, Viktor Gulyaev, Nina Sakhnovskaya, Olga Likhovskaya and the corps de ballet perform two movements of the ballet in this videotaped live performance. The dancing is very good, but the video and sound are unsatisfactory.
Raimonda" (1948) Husband and wife Konstantin Sergeyev and Natalia Dudinskaya star in this beautiful film. The dancing looks old-fashioned but has great vitality. I like Dudinskaya's performance of the slow "piano solo" variation. The Russians tend to perform it as a joyous -- albeit soulful -- dance, which I prefer to the serious, unsmiling interpretation that prevails among American dancers. Sergeyev's style is definitely old school, but his technique is very secure.
"Fountain of Bakhchisarai" (1981) The final scene features Alla Sizova as Maria and Lyubov Galinskaya as Zarema. The video quality is poor. Sizova is fine to the extent she has anything to do. This is Zarema's big scene, but I don't think Galinskaya brings much to the role -- she seems to substitute turn-out for passion. But maybe I'm just spoiled, having seen Plisetkaya perform this role in the video collection "Stars of the Russian Ballet."
"Romeo and Juliet" (1940) This is a very brief excerpt, almost pointless to include, except that it shows Ulanova and Sergeyev as they looked when they created the roles: young, beautiful and radiant.
"Taras Bulba" (1940) My favorite part of the video is this excerpt from the black and white film based on Gogol's novel about a 16th-century Ukrainian Cossack and his sons, with music by Soloviev-Sedoy. Mikhail Dudko as Taras Bulba is a good argument for reinstating the now-defunct practice of keeping senior dancers on the payroll. Vakhtang Chabukiani is electrifying as one of Taras Bulba's sons (the leaping solo). The dancer who plays the other son (the stamping solo) is also excellent but is unidentified. I'm a sucker for good character dancing, and in this film it is very good indeed. I love the faces in the crowd scenes in old Russian productions. This excerpt almost makes me envy those who lived in Stalinist Russia -- they got to see the entire film.
"Esmeralda" (1987) Altynai Asylmuratova dances the title role in this sizable excerpt from the Petipa/Perrot/Vaganova ballet, partnered by Kirill Melnikov as Gringoire. The four female soloists are not identified. The performances are uniformly excellent, but the video quality is bad, and the ballet is yet another series of undistinguished divertissements with an unremarkable score by Pugni. Even though Asylmuratova can make the most uninspired choreography worth watching, I usually find myself rewinding the tape to Taras Bulba and watching it again (and again).