Archive | April, 2015

Review in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Mark Franko reviews Janice Ross’s book Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia in a piece titled “The Un-Balanchine” for The Chronicle of Higher Education. From the review:

In America the premiere conveyor of that tradition was Balanchine. Who knew, though, that there was an un-Balanchine, Yakobson? Truly hidden behind the Iron Curtain, he tried to erase the boundaries between the pantomime moving the story forward and the so-called pure dance at the core of ballet as an art of movement. Rather than eliminate pantomime and psychology, Yakobson integrated them with movement, maintaining the integrity of the modernist project even as he avoided abstraction.

Ross focuses on the dichotomy between Yakobson’s career and Balanchine’s during the Cuban missile crisis, when there was a touring exchange between the New York City Ballet and the Bolshoi. Despite the popularity and critical esteem he enjoyed, Yakobson had to fend off anti-Semitic Communist censors. But while he was a resister in the Soviet Union, in the West he was the resisted. When his Spartacus was performed in New York City in 1962, his innovations were misunderstood by American critics as backward Soviet-realist clichés.

Ross’s is a fascinating rereading of ballet modernism, her careful documentation and insightful analysis revivifying a forgotten tradition. She constructively untidies our notions of how several centuries of choreography flowed into the 20th — an inspiring provocation for scholars and artists alike in the 21st.

Read it here