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.