Foreword, by Lynn Garafola


Note on Transliteration

Introduction: History and Leonid Yakobson’s Ballets

1. Ballet and Power: Leonid Yakobson in Soviet Russia
—reveals how ballet has an unusual and long relationship with power that can quickly become dangerous under authoritarian regimes

2. Beginnings: Learning to Be an Outsider
—describes how Yakobson introduced an iconography of Jewish mannerisms and narratives into the movement language of classical ballet, a form that has historically muted or erased cultural differences

3. What Is to Be Done with Ballet?
—tells the story of how Yakobson found his daringly confident voice as a choreographer as he negotiated a balance between the constantly shifting rules about art making and unmaking under the Soviet regime

4. Chilling and Thawing: Cold War Ballet and the Anti-Jewish Campaign
—unveils how, during increasing treachery toward national minorities, especially the Jews, Yakobson defiantly choreographed the first Jewish themed ballets in the Kirov Ballet

5. Spartacus
details the USSR’s signature ballet of the Cold War and how Yakobson choreographed a Soviet proletarian superman whose oppressors seemed less western Capitalists than the Soviets themselves

6. Dismantling the Hero
—traces how the ballets Yakobson made after Spartacus moved away from the myth of the indestructible Stalinist-era male, using images of broken, abnormal dancing bodies in anti-heroic postures to show a different kind of strength

7. A Company of His Own: Privatizing Soviet Ballet
—tells of Yakobson’s attempt to found his own company – the first independent single-choreographer company in the USSR – and expand the role of an independent artist

8. Totalitarianism, Uncertainty, and Ballet
shines a light on Yakobson’s series of radical ballet miniatures and how, through these dense duets, he shattered the traditional configuration and narrative of the pas de deux

—discloses that though Yakobson died too soon and much of his choreography was lost, he showed ballet’s capacity for standing against authority during dark decades of the USSR, carried modern ballet to safety and became one of its greatest defenders

Appendix: Works by Leonid Yakobson