In a change of tempo and scenery, Valery Panov and his wife, Galina Panova, were recently invited to Harvard University to communicate via talk rather than choreography. After a United States tour for performances in Louisville and Kansas City, the Panovs came to Cambridge to meet with students, faculty, and the Nieman Fellows in journalism, to describe their life on and off the stage since leaving the soviet Union nearly six year ago.
The world remembers the Panov's sudden and dramatic release in June 1974 after two years of Soviet persecution suffered when they had applied for visas to emigrate to Israel (experiences are chronicled in Valery Panov's book "To Dance," reissued in paperback this past. Their lives are busy with peresent commitments and future plans, with little need for backward glances.
Although the Panovs make their home in Jerusalem, their life is one of traveling, as it is for many of the other Russian emigre ballet stars. In the first years after their release from Russia, the Panovs toured 55 cities in the US with the Eglevsky Company, the San Francisco Ballet, and other local companies in works such as "Harlequinade" and "The Lady and the Hooligan" from their Russian repertory. Currently, the Panovs are on contract with the Berlin Opera Ballet, where they spend six months each year, alternating with performances with the Vienna Opera Ballet and guest appearances in Europe and America.
The next major undertaking after finishing the spring season with the Berlin Opera Ballet is returning to the US with the Berlin company for performances at the Metropolitan Opera and Washington's Kennedy Center in July and August 1980. Rudolf Nureyev will join the Panovs in the leading roles in panov's 3 1/2-hour ballet "The Idiot," which premiered in Berlin in June 1979, received a 32-minute ovation at the final curtain on opening night.
Panov admits that both his friends and his enemies thought him "stupid and ambitious" to try to contain the immense Dostoevsky novel on the stage, but his next project is receiving similar predictions. Panov will stage Tolstoy's "War and Peace" for the Berlin Opera Ballet, scheduled for a premiere in February 1981 with a score of various works, not known in the West, by Sergei Prokofiev. Since Panov sees "War and Peace" as a love story, he has entitled this new ballet "natasha." Panov's wife, Galina, will create the leading part as she has in all of his ballets.
In december 1981 his full-length "Hamlet" will be seen in Vienna, for the Vienna Opera Ballet. Panov hopes to invite Mstislav Rostropovich to conduct the orchestra, with John Gielgud speaking some of the dialogue.
Panov believes that more ballet stars and others will defect from Russia if given the opportunity. "There is no future for ballet in Russia. It is not creative, there is no openness of vision, no new contacts. There is no freedom of choice for the artist."