NEW YORK (AP) ― When people think of famous Soviet dancers who defected to the West, they recall Rudolf Nureyev, certainly, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. But there was also a formidable woman among them: Natalia Makarova, who defected in 1970 and went on to win glory for decades to come, in Europe and in the United States.
Now 71, Makarova is retired of course, but she was the undisputed star over the weekend at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater as ballet greats gathered to pay her tribute. It was part of a rare and wonderful dance weekend courtesy of the Youth America Grand Prix, a global ballet scholarship competition.
It’s in the nature of the art of dance that we almost never get to hear the artists speak. That’s why it was a special pleasure to hear Makarova, in taped interviews broadcast on a huge screen, describe her life, interspersed with footage of her dancing.
As graceful as the dance excerpts were, it was a treat to hear her recount things that perhaps didn’t go so well. She described once getting stuck in a tiny elevator lifting her to the stage; at the time, she was trying to get into the spirit of the Swan Queen. She heard the music playing without her, and finally had to break character to scream at technicians, which she ably demonstrated in the film clip.
Of that swan, and other roles, she quipped: “I’ve danced every bird in the business.’’ She also spoke of her mother: “I gave her lots of trouble.’’
Makarova was to appear in the flesh only at the curtain call. First came a truly impressive parade of artists assembled by YAGP, performing bits of signature Makarova roles, or other pieces evocative of her life.