Is anyone more at home onstage than Nina Ananiashvili? Her majestic stage presence is on display in this 1993 clip of her and fellow Bolshoi Ballet star Alexei Fadeyechev dancing Raymonda’s Act I pas de deux. The two make a commanding pair, refined and elegant in the opening partnered section. Fadeyechev is a sturdy partner and a solid technician, as evidenced by his wobble-free variation. Ananiashvili draws on her delicate charm, cocking her head sweetly and lightly hopping on pointe in her variation (6:20). Yet underneath that grace lies a steely strength. Just watch the way she attacks her pirouette diagonal (7:33) and performs a sweeping manège of coupé jeté turns (9:05) in the coda.
During the Soviet era, one of Ananiashvili’s partners defected to America while the two were guest performing. Afraid of losing her too, the Bolshoi took away her passport. Ananiashvili made history, however, and did what even Baryshnikov and Nureyev could not: She negotiated her freedom. She persuaded the company to allow her to guest outside of Russia and come and go as she pleased. Ananiashvili joined two American companies as a principal—American Ballet Theatre and Houston Ballet—and had a stunning international career. She’s now the artistic director of State Ballet of Georgia. Fadeyechev too, took on a directorial role following his stage days. He led the Bolshoi Ballet for two years before co-founding his own company (with Ananiashvili!) in 2000. He now stages ballets around the world.