In 1959 cultural history was made when the spectacular Bolshoi Ballet came to the United States for the first time, performing to sold-out houses in the 4,000-seat Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The love projected between the audiences and the Russian performers was overwhelming, and we all laughed together when the dancers ended their performance with a simple dance to “Tea for Two.”
In 1961, the exquisite Kirov Ballet Company made its first tour of the United States. I was one of the American dancers picked to be slaves in the ballet “Spartacus” at the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. It was thrilling to hurl ourselves in front of a troupe of Russian warriors as they leapt on stage. The Russians were very friendly when we tried to talk with them.
In 1962 Russian immigrant George Balanchine took our New York City Ballet to perform in Moscow. The Russian audiences were very excited to see the modern ballets of their native son. But the KGB put one American dancer in jail for taking pictures of birds, and they erased the pictures taken by another American dancer.
During the mid 1980s, Russian President, Mikhail Gorbachev enacted Perestroika — a political movement for reformation within the Communist Party and Glasnost-openness, freedom from all constraints. Miraculously, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Berlin Wall fell.
Ronald Reagan had several summit conferences with Gorbachev, and he felt he could talk openly to Gorbachev according to the book Riding With Reagan. So, in 1992, Reagan invited Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, to visit him and Nancy at his Rancho del Cielo where these two great presidents established good will and good relations between the United States and Russia. Fortunately, this historic Rancho del Cielo was saved from three destructive wildfires, during the last six years, by the skill of ranch employees and fire fighters.
The pandemic has stopped our cultural exchanges, and now Putin’s war against Ukraine is destroying people and their land but not their souls. Pray for a third miracle that honorable Russians will prevail so Perestroika and Glasnost are restored in perpetuity in Russia.