Dance: Decidedly Bessmertnova

"That's quite a name you've got there," Bolshoi Ballet Master Leonid Lavrovsky told the young ballerina. "If you turn out to be a good dancer you can keep it." The dancer's name was Natalia Bessmertnova, and since in Russian that means Natalie the Immortal, its owner seemed destined to carry it awkwardly—like a steamer trunk with fancy labels. Last week, with barely two months as a Bolshoi soloist behind her, Bessmertnova was established in Moscow's excited ballet world as decidedly bessmertnova—even more so, said her teachers, than the immortal Ulanova.

Such talk is perhaps a bit excessive. Bessmertnova has appeared in...

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