Russian Grand Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty


When the words Russian and ballet are used in the same sentence, we expect something grand; the Russian Grand Ballet company’s recent performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty did not disappoint. Sets were beautiful, costumes stunning, and the dancing uniformly excellent. The Lilac Fairy, performed by Yulia Zakharenko, was especially exquisite. Very tall, taller than the princes, with elegant long arms and legs, she clearly was a prima ballerina and we thought we had seen the star. Only later when Olga Kifyak appeared as Princess Aurora, flawlessly performing the wonderful Rose Adagio, did we realize this company has at least two prima ballerinas, not to mention several others nearly as outstanding.

Most male dancers are there to accent the ballerinas, turn them gracefully, and most especially make sure they are not hurt (“Don’t drop the girl”!), but when Yevgeniy Svetlitsa came flying on stage as Prince Desire, it was clear he is a master of his art and a joy to behold. Now, to have one great male dancer is wonderful, but we were delighted again in a later pas de deux to see Constantine Mayorov performing similar excellent leaps and turns with precision and power.

Great ballet is a display of skill, strength, grace, and artistic sense that requires years of training and on-going practice. To see this familiar tale portrayed in dance to such wonderful music was a delight; all in all, an excellent night out. Our only complaint, our good old Pantages Theater in Tacoma, a classic building filled with faded elegance, needs new chairs. A short performance is fine, but full length performances are physically taxing; perhaps there is a rich patron in the audience somewhere who could do something about it.

If you wish to see beautiful dance at the highest level, consider The Russian Grand Ballet next time they come to America. Alas, you have missed them for this year. They are headed home after a tour that lasted from Sept 20th through Oct 29th–36 performances all over the country, with only 4 days off, a grueling schedule. But then again, they are dancers. I have had the pleasure of associating at least somewhat with dancers and musicians, artists and actors, my entire adult life. Dancers in particular often display an interesting pattern–they may practice all day and perform all evening, then for relaxation have a nice meal and do what? Go dancing!


Art Garfunkel, Bridging the Waters

Some very dear friends kindly took us to Art Garfunkel’s recent concert at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma, WA. It was a delightful, very rewarding evening. His was the clear tenor voice that made possible the wonderful Simon and Garfunkel music that those of us of a certain age associate with our high school and college years. But this was not simply a series of old songs re-sung; this performance included newer songs with old favorites, interwoven with the artist’s delightful commentary on life, often in poetic form. (He protested applying that high-sounding term, poetry, to his writings, but since the English Department includes free verse under its definition of poetry, we will too.)

There is a spirit of mature melancholy in Garfunkel’s music and musings. Not the adolescent angst we knew so long ago, but the reflective thoughts and feelings of one who has experienced life, known great success and great loss and success returned again. “Artie” lost his voice in 2009 and labored diligently to regain it. He succeeded well. The result is not only a beautiful voice, but the sense of a great artist who is also humble, a rare and wonderful thing in our age of self-promoting demagoguery.

The greater losses, though, were of loved ones lost in death’s dateless night. Here Garfunkel revealed his love of family and friends: his beloved wife and children, also his intermittent relationship with childhood friend and youthful collaborator, Paul Simon. He also revealed his faith in God and devotion to the more important things of life. As a boy he served as a cantor, and included in the concert a too-brief excerpt of Hebrew a cappella. Even without the touch of echo added by the sound engineer, it was heavenly, an angel’s song.

Garfunkel’s concluding number was a rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Waters which he characterized as a “rehearsal” of a work-in-progress. There was no piano; all his accompaniment was by a very fine guitarist. Nevertheless, this adaptation of an old favorite was simply outstanding, very fine. Standing ovations generally are over-done, but in this case, I was happy to join the crowd in standing for a great artist in the humane tradition. Long may he perform.

Here is a link to his website where you may be able to find a performance near you:


Best Wishes.