On November 20, Maya Plisetskaya would turn 96 years old. The part of the Dying Swan in her performance became a classic, but the ballerina danced other awesome roles too.
Kitri in the ballet Don Quixote by Ludwig Minkus
Maya Plisetskaya first performed the part of the passionate Spanish girl at the age of 25. It happened in 1950 at the celebration of Stalin's birthday in the Kremlin. Initially, the ballerina was supposed to dance the variation of the Street Dancer from the same Don Quixote ballet, but before the concert, the commission strongly recommended to redo the performance. Eventually, Maya Plisetskaya danced the part from Don Quixote but to the jumping variation from Laurencia. As she later said, she "jumped twice”. The ballerina was mentioned in the newspaper articles about the birthday concert.
And after a while, Kitri performed by Plisetskaya appeared on the theater stage. This debut was not flawless. In her memoirs, Maya Mikhailovna wrote that during this performance in the first act she lost her “balance and wound up on the floor at the end, perfectly in time with the music." The ballerina remembered everything, down to the smallest detail, including the final pas de deux, where she did 28 fouettés perfectly but "leaned off to the side” during the last four. “The final pose was not centered.”
Despite the objective severity, with which Plisetskaya assessed her stage debut in Don Quixote herself, this part became one of her starring roles and brought her great public love. Violeta Mainiece, a ballet expert and teacher, wrote about this role of Maya Mikhailovna:
Carmen in the ballet Carmen Suite by Alberto Alonso
In 1967, the ballerina visited a performance by the choreographer Alberto Alonso, who brought his Cuban ballet company on a tour to Luzhniki. The action on stage captivated Maya Mikhailovna totally, she recalled:
During the intermission, she invited the Cuban choreographer to stage Carmen in the USSR. At that time, inviting a foreign ballet master to work at the Bolshoi was a real gamble. Nevertheless, they managed to get permission. Finding a composer was complicated too - Dmitry Shostakovich refused, admitting: “I'm afraid of Bizet.” However, Rodion Shchedrin, a composer and Plisetskaya's husband, agreed to create a musical accompaniment for the ballet.
Carmen Suite premiered in 1967 and immediately received devastating reviews from the Minister of Culture Yekaterina Furtseva. She reproached the production with excessive eroticism; in response, Maya Plisetskaya suggested shortening the love adagio. Furtseva agreed to give the ballet a chance if the artists removed a lift in their adagio and Plisetskaya wore a longer skirt.
This ballet rightfully became a real gem of the Bolshoi Theater; gradually, the public began to associate the hot Carmen image with Plisetskaya. Later, she called this part her dream come true:
Idol in the ballet Bolero by Maurice Béjart
The French choreographer staged the ballet to the music by Joseph Maurice Ravel in 1961. Maya Plisetskaya saw the performance 13 years later, in 1974, and since then she dreamed of dancing the main part in it.
Plisetskaya debuted in Bolero on a foreign stage. When she wanted to transfer this ballet to the Bolshoi, she met fierce resistance from the head of the theater, Georgy Ivanov. However, we know that it was Leonid Brezhnev himself who allowed the ballerina to dance Bolero on the Moscow stage, and this happened the day before the premiere.
Preparation for the role became a real challenge for the ballerina. Plisetskaya later recalled:
The ballerina called this performance the most unusual in her career, Bejart spoke highly of Plisetskaya's dancing, and for the public this role became one of the vivid associations with the name of Maya Mikhailovna.