Archive | Events

Past event: January 30, 2015 at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

On January 30, 2015, the Jewish Studies Program and the Taube Center for Jewish Studies, Stanford University co-sponsored Janice Ross’s talk, “Dangerous Dances: Leonid Yakobson and Jewish Identity in Soviet Ballet.” The event was held from noon to 1 p.m. in CSRE Conference Room, Building 360. Read more here.

Ross discussed the regulation of Jewish identity in 20th century Soviet Russia though the lens of ballet as an archive of cultural exile. Her talk, which included rare archival videos and images from her research in Russia, Israel and the U.S., traced how the ballets of Leonid Yakobson (1904-1975), the leading experimental voice in mid-20th century Soviet ballet, created a rupture with Socialist Realism by embracing a modernist aesthetic and valorizing shunned images of the cultural outsider in Yakobson’s signature work, Jewish Wedding. Yakobson was the target of highly successful strategies of erasure and silencing during his most productive years, years that coincided with the quarter century of Josef Stalin’s regime of terror. (1922-1953). Her research was propelled by questions about how Yakobson represented on stage the displacement caused by maintaining a Jewish identity in ballet. It is about the “Why?” underlying the censorship Yakobson was subjected to for attempting to inscribe a corporeal presence of Jewishness on one of the most regulated Western ideals of the pure, culturally unmarked body– Russian classical ballet at the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets.

Past event: February 13, 2015: Columbia University, New York City

On February 13, 2015 at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University in New York City, Janice Ross delivered a lecture, “Aestheticizing Sport: Leonid Jacobson’s Muscular Choreography,” as part of a speaker panel titled A New Soviet Ballet.

The lecture was part of an international symposium, Russian Movement Culture of the 1920s and 1930s, organized by Lynn Garafola and Catharine Nepomnyashchy, February 12-14, 2015. All events took place at School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street, New York, NY 10027.

Schedule for A New Soviet Ballet, February 13, 2-4:30 p.m.:

  • Introduction by Anna Kisselgoff
  • Edward Tyerman, “The Red Poppy and 1927: Translating Contemporary China into Early Soviet Ballet”
  • Janice Ross, “Leonid Yakobson’s Muscular Choreography and The Golden Age”
  • Tim Scholl, “From Moscow and Back: Creating and Assessing the ‘National’ Ballets of Caucasia in the 1930s”
  • Christina Ezrahi, “Experiments in Character Dance: From Leningrad’s Estrada to the Kirov Ballet”
  • Discussant: Irina Klyagin
  • Q&A (15 minutes)

Past event: February 16, 2015: Royal Academy of Dance, London

On February 16, 2015, at 6 p.m., at the Royal Academy of Dance in London, Janice Ross delivered a lecture, “Politics and Ballet Pedagogy in the USSR.” Find more information here.

Ross’s talk, which included rare archival videos and images from her research in Russia, Israel and the U.S., traced how the ballets of Leonid Yakobson (1904-1975), the leading experimental voice in mid-20th century Soviet ballet, challenged authorities at the same time as they invigorated the classical repertoire. Offering a daring alternative to socialist realist art his ballets for the dancers of the Kirov and Bolshoi opened new vistas for the young Russian stars like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova. Yakobson questioned the form and content of ballet while repositioning its social relevance and retaining early twentieth-century movement innovations, such as turned-in and parallel foot positions, oddly angled lifts, and floor work, all of which challenged Soviet ballet orthodoxies. Since the fall of the USSR these same ballets have ironically become revered by Russian ballet teachers today for the students in the Vaganova Academy in St.Petersburg and are featured as essential parts of the training of Russian dancers.

Past event: February 17, 2015: University of Roehampton, London

On February 17, 2015 from 6-7:30 p.m. at University of Roehampton, London, Janice Ross presented “Dangerous Dances: Leonid Yakobson and Jewish Identity in Soviet Ballet.” Find the event listing here.

Ross discussed the regulation of Jewish identity in 20th century Soviet Russia though the lens of ballet as an archive of cultural exile. Her talk, which included rare archival videos and images from her research in Russia, Israel and the U.S., traced how the ballets of Leonid Yakobson (1904-1975), the leading experimental voice in mid-20th century Soviet ballet, created a rupture with Socialist Realism by embracing a modernist aesthetic and valorizing shunned images of the cultural outsider in Yakobson’s signature work, Jewish Wedding. Yakobson was the target of highly successful strategies of erasure and silencing during his most productive years, years that coincided with the quarter century of Josef Stalin’s regime of terror. (1922-1953). Her research was propelled by questions about how Yakobson represented on stage the displacement caused by maintaining a Jewish identity in ballet. It is about the “Why?” underlying the censorship Yakobson was subjected to for attempting to inscribe a corporeal presence of Jewishness on one of the most regulated Western ideals of the pure, culturally unmarked body– Russian classical ballet at the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets.

Past event: February 18, 2015: Pushkin House, London

On February 18, 2015 from 7:30 to 9 p.m., Janice Ross delivered a talk, “Leonid Yakobson: Ballet as a Weapon in Soviet Russia,” at Pushkin House in London. Click here for more details.

Soviet Dance History has its share of muted voices – artists who spent decades in creative silence while keeping inner faith with modernist ideals of the 1920s.

Foremost among this creative group was Leonid Yakobson. A choreographer who was as quick tempered as he was resolute, Yakobson was an artist of contradictions, a modernist who started out with proletarian ideals and continued to make war on ballet and use unconventional movement, even as he worked with Russia’s greatest ballet dancers. He made dances for the leading Soviet companies – the Bolshoi and Kirov – but struggled for years to establish his own troupe, which became the first of its kind in postwar USSR.

He was a Jew who created his first Jewish-themed dances in the late 1940s as Jews were being arrested as “rootless cosmopolitians” and “bourgeoise Nationalists.” Yet he never tried to emigrate or leave Russia. He was a man with a profound sense of irony who seemed unfazed when a ballet of his disappeared at a censor’s pen stroke. He had an unquenchable desire to make dances and to transform Russian ballet. Denied a studio and fired from the Kirov he wrote libretti, on his deathbed he dreamed of choreographing a new ballet. And along the way he inspired and worked with the greatest Russian dancers of his generation including Maya Plisteskaya, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Valery Panov, Alla Ossipenko.

Janice Ross tells his story, and provides insight into the dangerous world of dissident dances he sustained during the most difficult years of Stalin’s reign.

Past event: February 20, 2015: Society for Dance Research Conference, London

On February 20, 2015 at the Society for Dance Research’s Dancing Economies Conference at Royal Holloway College, London, Janice Ross delivered a lecture, “Economies of Collectivization in Soviet Ballet through the works of Leonid Yakboson.” Find conference information here.

This presentation explored intersections of the USSR economic policies of collectivization and the ballet stage in Soviet Russia. It questions how, particularly during the Stalinist period, the economics of Communism played out on the ballet stage aesthetically and organizationally. Issues explored include: How did the planned economy of the USSR resonate on the bodies and structures of ballet production and performance, particularly in the mid 1940s to mid 1970s period in Leningrad? Where and in what manner did economies of Communist Socialism collide with cultural production? Using the resistant choreographer Leonid Yakobson as a case study, this research traces key aspects of the constraints, but equally importantly the underexplored affordances, of Soviet economic structures on emergent structures for dance making during this period. Drawing on rare archival videos and images from a just published monograph on Yakobson, Stanford Professor Janice Ross explored how Soviet state ownership of essentially all of the country’s cultural production resources through to the broad objectives for economic growth set by the state’s Five-year Plans, government control of virtually all aspects of the national economy – including setting the levels of wages and prices, controlling the allocation of resources, deciding what would be produced and how and where goods would be distributed – shaped the ballet body in Soviet Russia.

Past Event: March 24, 2015 University of Southern California, Los Angeles

On March 24, 2015 from 1-2 p.m. at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Janice Ross will deliver an Invited Keynote at the Conney Conference on Jewish Arts titled, Jewish/American/Israeli: Intertwined Identities in the Contemporary Arts and Humanities . Read more about the conference here.

Drawing on new research growing out of her work on Leonid Yakobson’s legacy in Israel, Ross will lecture on The Hasidic Swan: Ballet as Subversive in Israel at this conference which focuses on “Jewish/American/Israeli: Intertwined Identities in the Contemporary Arts and Humanities.” The conference is co-presented by The Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies at The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Southern California Initiative for Israeli Arts and Humanities. Location will be announced closer to the event.

Past Event: April 8, 2015 San Francisco Opera House, San Francisco

On April 8, 2015, 6-7 p.m. at the San Francisco Opera House, Orchestra, Janice Ross will deliver a Point Of View Lecture titled, “When Ballet Became Dangerous: Shostakovich Trilogy and the Soviet Past.” Find the event listing here.

Ross, a Stanford dance historian and author of Like a Bomb Going Off, a new book focusing on Soviet ballet during the Stalin era, explores the fascinating and dangerous intersections between politics and ballet in Soviet Russia.