Kirov's Vinogradov: "I Don't Feel My Position Is in jeopardy."(Oleg Vinogradov of Kirov Ballet)

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON--Defections, kidnappings, internecine struggles for leadership--all of these have long made the Kirov Ballet's offstage adventures at least as intriguing as its onstage ones. When the Kirov's expected fall 1995 five-city United States tour was canceled in August, beleaguered director Oleg Vinogradov once again found himself fielding questions that had little to do with ballet as an art form. This time, the story involved a factor that is affecting most companies: money. "The impresarios and parties that wanted to bring us on the tour ... did not have the funds available to make it possible," says Vinogradov, speaking through a translator from his home near Washington. The presenters could not meet the Kirov's fee requirements, he says, and, "We simply are unable to lower our fees." The company had hoped to go to Philadelphia, Wolf Trap, Boston, Orange County, and Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, presenter James A. Doolittle says the Kirov wanted him to guarantee at least $450,000 for a week's worth of performances, and he countered with an offer of $200,000 to $300,000, with additional sharing of revenues and costs above that amount. Doolittle had made similar arrangements previously with Joffrey Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and Royal Ballet, he says.

Susan Weaving, president of Tour de Force International, the Kirov's North American booker, insists Doolittle did not give the Kirov sufficient time to consider his offer. She also blames negative criticism of the Kirov's New York performances last June, which she says made presenters in other cities jittery. Vinogradov, however, discounted that reviews influenced the tour cancelation. The presenters really should be concerned most with what should be most important to them, and that is ticket sales," he says. "If you were to look at the results of ticket sales in New York and London, we were five weeks in London and basically performed to sold-out theaters. The same held true for our engagement at the Met." The Kirov will not be back in the United States for two or three years, Vinogradov says; Weaving says she already has bookings for May 1997 and is expecting a substantial nationwide tour at that time.

The instability of the tour schedule again raises questions about the overall financial stability of the company, but Vinogradov says not to worry. "We're doing rather well. We are able to command the highest fees, and because of the fact that we tour six to eight months out of the year, we are able to earn a considerable amount of revenue and be quite independent from conditions in Russia at this time. …