Archive | October, 2015

Robert Johnson reviews “Like a Bomb Going Off” for Forward

Dance critic Robert Johnson reviewed Janice Ross’s book Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia for the publication Forward.

From the piece:

In a world where obtuse government functionaries made aesthetic decisions, this artist insisted on creating a new vocabulary for dance, rejecting the familiar tropes of classical ballet and replacing collective ideals with a personal vision. His approach resembled American modern dance. And from a Soviet official’s point of view, these things were worse than the gentle awakening of “The Kiss” or the sexual violence of “Minotaur and Nymph.”

In Ross’s account, it becomes clear that what Soviet officials objected to was not simply the ballet’s ending, in which an impoverished schlemiel despairs when his true love’s parents arrange for her to marry a wealthy man.

But what concerned the officials even more was the ballet’s affirmation of a Jewish identity separating the dancers’ bodies from the body politic in which citizens of the USSR were meant to submerge their differences.

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New York Times review: Sexy Soviet Ballet Steps, Once Delivered as Protest

The New York Times reviewed a book presentation by Janice Ross and performance of Leonid Yakobson’s work by San Francisco Ballet trainees at the 92nd Street Y.

From the review:

This was “The Hidden Erotic Body of Soviet Ballet,” a presentation by Janice Ross, a professor at Stanford and the author of a recent book about Yakobson, “Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia.” After an introduction by Ms. Ross, dancers performed excerpts from Yakobson’s “Pas de Quatre” (1971) and “Rodin” (1958). Nikolay Levitskiy and Vera Solovyeva, who were members of Yakobson’s company and who now stage his ballets, gave the dancers some coaching notes, and a panel discussed how much (or how little) of Yakobson’s legacy might be retrievable.

Early in her talk, Ms. Ross showed a photo of Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist protest group. “Before there was Pussy Riot, there was Yakobson,” she said. She presented Yakobson as artist who used ballet to challenge authoritarian rule. Under the threat of censorship (and potentially much worse), he resisted in covert ways, she said, “claiming ballet was innocuous while making it a weapon.”

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