Johns Hopkins Gazette: December 11, 1995

Prepping For A World Premiere
Former Kirov star shows young dancers the light

Anne Garside
Peabody Office of Public Information

     As the October days darkened into November and now December,
dancers at the Peabody Preparatory have been flying into the
light, which happens to be the title of a new ballet
choreographed by Roudolf Kharatian, the former star of the Kirov
Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

     This is one of the most original dance productions on this
scale that the Prep has ever undertaken. Dance department
chairwoman Carol Bartlett believes, as do those who have seen
rehearsals in these final weeks, that we are witnessing the birth
of a ballet that is destined to enter the permanent repertoire of
the ballet world. 

     In the world premiere--scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 14
through 16 in Peabody's Friedberg Concert Hall--the dancers will 
perform to original music by Armenian composer Vahram Babayan,
who sounds like a 20th-century Tchaikovsky. His music is highly
romantic and melodic. There will be four professional dancers
with a supporting cast of Prep ballet students in the 13-16 age
range, with one special scene choreographed for the

     Into the Light tells of an individual seagull's search for
perfection in flight. While the rest of the flock scramble near
the ground for their daily food, this seagull (danced by Stephen
Piper) becomes obsessed with soaring and gliding upward into the
heavens, assisted by two radiant silver seagulls. These lead him
ever upward to join a silver flock of birds. When he returns to
earth, his fellow seagulls at first attack him for being
different, then finally try to follow him as he flies ever
straighter, faster and higher, until eventually he fades into the

     The costumes are simple, mainly unitards painted with dark
gray and white seagull markings, but one group of dancers will
shine with the silvery radiance of heavenly creatures,
contrasting with the more earthbound flock. There is an element
here of the traditional transformation scene beloved of British

     Those of us who watched the work in progress were fascinated
to see the metamorphosis of the young dancers into their roles,
as they took on fluttering wing movements and distinctly
seagullish turns of body and head. Into the Light keeps the
principals and corps de ballet in constantly flowing patterns, as
though the dancers are soaring and gliding in flight.

     "Of course it's very difficult to work with nonprofessional
dancers, but I am very pleased with how hard these young Prep
dancers worked," Kharatian says. "So, instead of trying to make
the choreography easier, I tried to bring them up to professional
standards. And what's been accomplished in the past few weeks has
laid a foundation, I think, for the Prep to have its own ballet

     Roudolf Kharatian has danced all the lead roles of the
classical ballet repertoire, from Giselle to Spartacus, with the
Kirov, the Bolshoi and other major companies. It is fascinating
to watch him teach by example. Every movement of his head and
body has the elegance of a dancer trained in the great Russian
classical ballet tradition. He looks like he has just stepped off
the stage of the Maryinsky, the famed theater that has been the
home of the Kirov in St. Petersburg since the time of Catherine
the Great. Except that instead of the jewel-encrusted curtain of
the Maryinsky, modeled on a ballgown of the Empress Catherine,
his backdrop for much of the past few months has been the scuffed
walls of one of the older dance studios in the Prep.

     Born in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, Kharatian received
his early training at the Yerevan Ballet Academy before going on
to the fabled Vaganova Ballet Academy in Leningrad, where one of
his fellow class members was Mikhail Baryshnikov. His interest in
choreography led him to complete his master's degree in
choreography at Moscow State University in 1967. Kharatian was
the founder/director of the Armenian State Television Chamber
Ballet Company, where, from 1979 to 1991, he built a reputation
as an innovative choreographer, experimenting with creating
ballets especially for television. Under his direction, the
Armenian Chamber Ballet became one of the harbingers of change in
the Russian ballet world. 

     In 1971, Kharatian was invited to Washington to teach in the
recently established Kirov Ballet School. He is now a member of
the Washington Ballet and holds a position on the dance faculty
of the Peabody Preparatory, where he teaches classical ballet.
News that he has choreographed a new chamber ballet to be given
its world premiere at Peabody has spread around the
Baltimore/Washington dance community, and the December
performances are expected to generate a great deal of attention
in the dance world.   

     For ticket information, call the Peabody box office at (410)

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