NEW YORK (Mar. 12)
The plight of the famed Soviet ballet star, Valery Panov, and his wife, Galina, a ballerina, was dramatized today on the occasion of his 35th birthday, at a birthday party at Plaza Square at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street. Several hundred people, including celebrities from the world of arts, gathered in the square to proclaim their solidarity with the two beleaguered artists.
Clive Barnes, theater and dance critic of the New York Times and a member of the Committee for Valery and Galina Panov, said that for two years Panov has been “persecuted, harrassed and jailed.” Panov, he continued, is forced to practice his dancing in his small two-room apartment. “This is inhumanity,” Barnes said, adding that Panov is like “a man in a zoo.” Barnes said he had appealed to the Nixon Administration on behalf of Panov but that there there was “no response because of the policy of detente.”
Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D. Wash.), the sponsor of the Jackson amendment, sent a statement applauding the gathering and called for continued efforts to help “this brave couple.” Noting that the Soviet Union continues to deny the Panovs their fundamental right “to emigrate to a nation which would welcome them,” Jackson added: “The actions of the Soviet leaders in this matter speak louder to the American people and the Congress than the words of Soviet officials seeking U.S. trade help and concessions.” Martha Graham, the famed dancer, told the audience: “I appeal to the Soviet Union, as an older dancer, to let the Panovs choose their own lives. No shame will descend on Russia for this decision, only honor.”
Dancers from the American Ballet Theater, the Jose Limon Dance Company and the Martha Graham Dance company handed out pieces of birthday cake along with a flyer describing the Panovs’ situation. John Sumakis, a student of the American Ballet Theater School, wore the “Petrouchka” costume, symbolically portraying Panov in what is considered to be his most dramatic role. Irving Goldman, the newly appointed commissioner of cultural affairs of New York, sent greetings from all New Yorkers to Panov.
The event was sponsored by the National Conference on Soviet Jewry with the cooperation of the Committee for Valery and Galina Panov, the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry and Writers and Artists for Peace in the Middle East. Among those participating in today’s event were Hal Prince. Beverly Sills, Carol Channing, Peter Yarrow, Edward Albee, Glynis Johns, Gwen Verdon, Tony Randell, Jack Guilford, Maureen Stapleton, Paddy Chayefsky and Tammy Grimes. Ben Grauer, noted commentator, was the M.C. Similar solidarity birthday demonstrations took place in Washington, Boston and London. Many people purchased aerogramme and wrote their own messages of support to the Panovs.