With six male dancers from such faraway places as Mongolia, Uzbekistan, and Siberia, Seattle's Pacific Northwest Ballet is staging especially exotic productions.
Ballet is not one of the cultural amenities of Delvine, Albania, where the small population is likely to enjoy more homespun and spontaneous entertainment. In his ninth year, Astrit Zejnati was a gifted mimic there; his deft impersonations of his grandparents and neighbors had won him a following. When a friend of his father's passed through on a visit from Tirana, Zejnati was called upon to perform for the guest, who found his talents remarkable. He was whisked off to the state ballet academy in Tirana, where he was selected for an eight-year program to prepare him for a career as a dancer.
The 26-year-old Zejnati and five male colleagues currently dancing in Seattle with the Pacific Northwest Ballet have much in common. All were born and spent their formative preteen years in communist countries. All competed against seemingly impossible odds and were chosen by distinguished national academies to pursue full courses of ballet training in conjunction with academic education. Theater history, acting, mime, and musical performance were essentials in their curriculum. Each graduated with remarkable career potential in a profession deemed wholly respectable for men. All have traveled and performed extensively abroad. And every man was restless with the static fare offered to dancers living in the countries once part of the Soviet bloc.
Also in common was their ballet training. All nations east of the former Iron Curtain offer a method of pedagogy perfected by the legendary Russian teacher Agrippina Vaganova (1879--1951). Considered one of history's greatest educators of ballet dancers, the St. Petersburg--born former ballerina codified the Russian style of training through a synthesis of the French and Italian styles introduced into Russia in the nineteenth century with the accomplishments and artistic mandates of the later Russian ballet masters. It was through her methods that the brilliant virtuosity of the Soviet ballet was achieved, becoming a model and a …