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Highlights of the Russian Dance Festival [1977] - The Pavlova Celebration [1981] - Dance in America: The Feld Ballet [May 16, 1979]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0438
Run Time
0h 58m 44s
Date Produced
1977 - 1981
"Highlights of the Russian Dance Festival" is a folk dance television special (potentially spanning several episodes) from 1977 hosted by Orson Welles. It presents excerpts from The Russian Dance Festival that toured the United States during that year. It was aired primarily but not only in New York on WNBC-TV.

"The Pavlova Celebration" is a touring company/show from 1981 (the centennial of Pavlova's birth and the fiftieth anniversary of her death) directed by Douglas Wassell. Wassell engaged Starr Danias, Joffrey Ballet principal ballerina and actress from the then-recent The Turning Point (1977), to star in the Pavlova tribute numbers. Dancers from various other companies were also brought onboard for the tour. 

Dance in America is a PBS arts anthology television series that spun off of the more general Great Performances series. It aired beginning in 1976. This video includes an excerpt from the May 1979 episode "The Feld Ballet." 

The video cuts from a television recording of the 1977 Russian Dance Festival special to an audience member recording of a rehearsal of the "Pavlova Celebration," performed in a studio space and often in practice clothes, to a television recording of the 1979 "Feld Ballet" Dance in America episode.
The video begins with a series of very brief clips of Russian folk dancing, over which titles soon appear: "The Russian Dance Festival;" "With Orson Welles." The camera then cuts to Welles, who introduces himself and the festival. While he is still talking, the video cuts to static for a few moments before reopening in handheld footage from within an audience at a small performance space. The videocamera pans back and forth to show the extent of the space and then lands on a man who is (quietly) introducing the performance to follow. He explains that the intention with the program was by and large not to duplicate original steps, but to preserve the Pavlovian spirit. He goes on to introduce the first ballet as "Christmas," set in an 1840s parlor and rechoreographed by Alexander Minz of the American Ballet Theater.

After the announcer exits the performance space, four male dancers enter the "parlor," bow to one another, and place gifts on a table. A female dancer then enters, wearing a lavish dress, and the four men rush to help her remove her coat. Once she moves downstage and situates herself, the four of them all serenade her in a row with flowers and gifts. As they kneel, she walks down the row and accepts all of the gifts, after which she waltzes with each of them in turn. She then dances a brief solo before a fifth man enters and sweeps her off her feet. The other four look on until the couple separates and the fifth man leads the other men in an ensemble dance, performing his own solo in front of them. He then returns to his partner, eventually romancing her right off stage as the other four look on longingly, reaching toward her with their gifts. The ballet ends there, and after the dancers all bow, men in street clothes enter the space to strike the meager sets. 

The video then cuts to project director Douglas Wassell introducing himself; he then speaks briefly about his collaborator David Howard and introduces the next piece. After he exits, three female dancers walk forward and prepare to dance. They then enter the stage space one at a time to perform introductory solos, followed by a pas de trois all together. The dance is very brief, and the three bow at the end before exiting. 

Next, the original man returns and introduces the next piece, a solo: "The Dragonfly." He exits and Starr Danias enters, steps in the rosin box, and begins the light and turn-heavy Dragonfly solo. When it is complete, she bows and the announcer returns to introduce a once-scandalous solo: "The Bolero." A male dancer enters and performs this vigorous dance. After landing in his final pose, he rises, bows, and exits. The announcer then introduces Pavlova's most famous solo: "The Dying Swan." Danias returns and performs this ethereal piece, bows afterwards, and exits. 

The announcer returns to stall for the costume change, give thanks to various people involved in the production, and explain to the audience more abou thte project's plans and intentions. During this segment, the camera pans through the audience, landing now and then on the figure being thanked. Finally, he introduces the last piece of the presentation: a version of "Bacchanale." Danias and Gregory King then enter and perform this both energetic and dramatic pas de deux, which also includes brief solos by both dancers. After the couple bows and exits, the rest of the dancers return for final bows.

The announcer returns to thank the audience for coming and the videocamera is then trained on said audience as they rise and begin milling about. It continues roaming around for about five minutes while all mingle. The video then cuts to static for about ten minutes.

Finally, the video cuts to a segment from Dance in America's "The Feld Ballet" episode. It reopens in the middle of Feld's "... And to the Republic," a patriotic contemporary ballet set to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." The video then cuts to a view of the Elgin Theater in Chelsea, Manhattan, while a voiceover by John Lithgow explains that the Feld Ballet plans to convert it from an old movie theater into a new dance venue. Finally, it cuts to a shot of Feld running a rehearsal in a ballet studio, and final credits for the episode begin to roll. A voiceover announce what to expect the following week in the series and the credits end.

For a brief moment, the video cuts to footage from a boxing match, but then it ends. 
Main Credit
Wassell, Douglas (is director)
Kinberg, Judy (is producer)
Ardolino, Emile (is director)
Additional Credit
Feld, Eliot (is choreographer)
Holmes, Ralph (is lighting director)
Howard, David (is contributor)
Stuart, Muriel (is contributor)
Tobias, Tobi (is writer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Welles, Orson (is host)
Danias, Starr (is performer)
King, Gregory (is performer)
Tippet, Clark (is performer)
Collins, Debra (is performer)