Former Bolshoi Stars Reunite For 30th Anniversary of Their Defection to the U.S., LEGACY GALA Held 11/23

The last two of six Russian ballet dancers to famously defect from the U.S.S.R. to the United States in the 1960's and 70's - Valentina Kozlova and Leonid Kozlov, who sought political asylum on September 16, 1979 - will commemorate the 30th anniversary of their celebrated defection with a one-night-only dance concert, "The Legacy Gala" on Monday, November 23 at 7:30 p.m. at The Joyce Theater (175 Eighth Avenue) in New York City. Following the performance will be a Patron's party generously sponsored by the Firebird Russian Restaurant at 365 West 46 St., NYC, NY 10036.

"The Legacy Gala" will bring Ms. Kozlova and Mr. Kozlov to dance together for the first time in 15 years. The brightest young stars of the renowned Bolshoi Ballet in the 70's, the dancers became overnight international sensations when they defected while the Bolshoi was on tour in Los Angeles, following in the footsteps of fellow Russian ballet greats Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova, Alexander Godunov and Mikhail Baryshnikov, all of whom had previously defected to the U.S.

Valentina and Leonid made headlines again in 1982 when they starred together on Broadway in George Abbott's acclaimed revival of the musical "On Your Toes." Both were principal dancers with New York City Ballet for many years, and throughout their careers, they guest-starred with top ballet companies around the world. Glasnost enabled Ms. Kozlova and Mr. Kozlov to visit their homeland for the first time in 1991 and give triumphant performances before an audience of 6,000 at the Kremlin Palace.

The dance program for "The Legacy Gala" will feature its own roster of ballet stars: in addition to Ms. Kozlova and Mr. Kozlov, there will be special performances by Wendy Whelan and Philip Neal of New York City Ballet, Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky of American Ballet Theatre, and Larisa Ponomarenko of Boston Ballet. Each of the guest dancers has a longstanding relationship with Valentina Kozlova, as her dance partner and/or fellow ballet company member. As well, Ms. Kozlova's prize student Whitney Jensen, who recently became the first American to win the Grand Prix at the Varna Ballet Competition and is now a dancer with Boston Ballet, will perform. Rare news footage of Ms. Kozlova and Mr. Kozlov's defection will also be shown, along with news coverage of their return to Moscow in 1991.

"The Legacy Gala" is produced by Ms. Kozlova and Margo Sappington, and directed by Ms. Sappington, who is choreographing the dance that Valentina and Leonid will perform together, as well as the signature solo for Ms. Kozlova, "Vissi D'Arte, Vissi D'Amore".

Proceeds from the concert will benefit a new "Legacy" scholarship that provides professional training for aspiring ballet dancers to study renowned, classical Russian ballet techniques with Ms. Kozlova, whose Dance Conservatory of New York is dedicated to preserving the tradition and integrity of Russian ballet and teaching methods through education and training.

According to Ms. Kozlova, "The Legacy Gala" is her way of "giving back to a country that welcomed me with open arms. I want to impart the artistry of my dance heritage by offering scholarships to talented and needy students with intensive teacher training." Ms. Kozlova is the first one to acknowledge that life would have turned out very differently had she and Mr. Kozlov been denied political asylum 30 years ago.

Born in Moscow and trained at the Bolshoi Ballet School, Valentina Kozlova performed with the Bolshoi Theater from 1973-79, promoted to Principal Dancer in 1975. She has danced all major classical roles, including those created for her by Yuri Grigorovich. Following her engagement on Broadway in "On Your Toes," she joined the New York City Ballet as a Principal Dancer from 1983-95. In 1995, she established the Daring Project with Margo Sappington, a ballet company dedicated to performing new works, which have been performed on national and international tours. Ms. Kozlova opened Dance Conservatory of New York in 2003, where she provides students with the highest level of dance instruction based on traditional Vaganova Method.

Leonid Kozlov was also born in Moscow and trained at Bolshoi Ballet School, joining the company and performing lead roles as a Principal Dancer opposite all of the leading Bolshoi ballerinas at that time. Following his appearance on Broadway, he was the last male dancer invited by George Balanchine to join New York City Ballet, where he remained a Principal Dancer for 11 years with a repertoire of more than 30 ballets. Since 1989, Mr. Kozlov has been Artistic Advisor to the New Jersey Ballet and in 1991 he established Kozlov Dance International to promote and educate new generations of dancers in classical dance traditions.

Margo Sappington is a choreographer and director who has created works for dance companies worldwide. A member of Joffrey Ballet at age 17, she created her first choreography at age 21 for the Broadway musical OH! CALCUTTA! In addition to Joffrey Ballet's BILLBOARDS, she has choreographed for Atlanta Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Ballet Met, Milwaukee Ballet, Houston Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Pennsylvania Ballet as well as companies in France, Italy, Venezuela and the National Ballet of China. This year she had the world premiere of a full length ballet for the Abai Theater in Almaty, Kazakhstan and has collaborated on ballets with the singing duo Indigo Girls. Her ballet, "Common People" to William Shatner's CD "Has Been" is now the subject of a documentary currently on the Film Festival circuit. Sappington's career includes works for grand opera, music videos and Broadway.

General admission tickets are priced at $100, $50 and $35.

Patron pricing for "Legacy Gala" includes 2 premium tickets and the party at Firebird priced at $1,000, $500 and $350.

Tickets can be reserved by calling 917 709 1981.


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