Preview: Don Quixote, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

From Russia with lovers
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The Independent Culture

The Russian dancer Leonid Sarafanov is the rising star of the Kirov Ballet. The 22-year-old, who has often been compared with Nureyev, is shortly to arrive in Wales for the Kirov Ballet's UK season, where he will give two performances as Basil in Don Quixote .

The Russian dancer Leonid Sarafanov is the rising star of the Kirov Ballet. The 22-year-old, who has often been compared with Nureyev, is shortly to arrive in Wales for the Kirov Ballet's UK season, where he will give two performances as Basil in Don Quixote .

The production tells the story of the love affair between Kitri, a feisty peasant girl, and her sweetheart, Basil, encouraged by the deluded and chivalrous Don Quixote. Sarafanov's appearance as Basil will open and close the Kirov Ballet's two-week season

Born in Kiev, Sarafanov graduated from the Kiev State School of Choreography in 2000 and became a soloist with the ballet company of National Opera of Ukraine. In 2001, he won the gold medal at the 9th International Ballet Competition in Moscow and, the following year, joined the Kirov Ballet as a soloist.

"I started seriously preparing to be a dancer at six years old," he says. "I had no choice but to have a career as a ballet dancer, because all my relatives were dancers. It is in my blood." Asked how it feels to be compared with Nureyev, he replies: "I don't like to make the parallels. I don't like to compare myself with such a great individual."

Despite his ultimate dream to play Romeo in Romeo and Juliet , Sarafanov says Don Quixote is also one of his favourite ballets. "My character is a young man who falls in love with a young lady," he says. "But the lady's father is keen not to let them marry and be beside one another. They are trying to find a way to prolong their love and evade all these stumbling blocks that are in their way."

Other notable appearances during the season will be Uliana Lopatkina and Faroukh Ruzimatov in the exotic "Scheherazade", as part of the Dances of Fokine triple bill - alongside "Chopiniana" and "Firebird" - and Romeo and Juliet , with music by Sergei Prokofiev.

The Kirov's season is at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff (0870 040 2000), Tuesday to 30 April

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