Xenia Chlistowa's memory will be honored in her most comfortable setting - the stage - and told in her medium of choice - ballet.
"Xenia Goes West," the true life story of the Russian prima ballerina and Holocaust survivor, is scheduled to be performed by the College of Southern Nevada Dance Ensemble and Concert Dance Company and the Nevada Repertory Dance Theater at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday in the Nicholas J. Horn Theatre at CSN's Cheyenne campus, 3200 E. Cheyenne Ave.
The production is the brainchild of CSN Dance Program head Kelly Roth, who was instructed by Chlistowa about 25 years ago. About 25 students and professional dancers are to help Roth shine a light on the late artist's harrowing life.
"It's for a broad range of interests," he said. "It has the purity of abstract dance and the thrill of a good story based on real life."
Chlistowa was born in Lithuania and trained in Leningrad at the then-Kirov Academy of Ballet in Europe, where she was a soloist and prima ballerina by age 15. Around the time, Nazis began to invade Russia from the west, Roth said, and her ballet teacher and mother urged her to escape.
Toward the end of World War II, Chlistowa was captured and put in a concentration camp. She fell for a camp commandant, and he helped her escape, Roth said.
The young woman continued to perform undercover for several European ballet companies.
"She performed before Nazi officers who didn't know who they were seeing," Roth said. "Had they known, she would have been taken back."
She married a U.S. diplomat and moved to America. She retired from the stage and worked as ballet mistress and choreographer for several ballet companies before finishing her career on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin and Arizona State University. She died in 2005.
Roth was Chlistowa's pupil while he was in graduate school, and she shared her story firsthand with him.
Roth wrote and choreographed "Xenia Goes West" shortly after her death. He introduced it on a Las Vegas stage, with a glitch. The lead dancer portraying Chlistowa developed a kidney infection during dress rehearsals. A CSN teacher stepped into the 35-minute ballet and improvised everything but duet dances, Roth said.
"The original choreography hasn't been seen until now," he said, of this weekend's performances. "This will be the first time it will be seen as originally intended."
New to the show are the Nevada Repertory Dance Theater, under the tutelage of choreographer Marko Westwood, and an original piece by another Chlistowa student, Cynthia Dufault.
"I knew her as a ballet teacher and pointe teacher, but I never knew her history," Dufault said. "This is very enlightening to me to hear the story Kelly has put together."
Dufault is to perform in the abstract piece she choreographed.
Ballerina Jennifer Roberts is to portray Chlistowa in this weekend's productions.
"I'm so excited to see how it was supposed to look six years ago," Roth said.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors with valid ID. Receptions follow each performance.
For more information on the performances, call 651-5483 or visit csn.edu/pac.
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at email@example.com or 477-3839.