Rita Felciano reviews Janice Ross’s book Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia for In Dance.
From the piece:
It was left to Janice Ross’ Like A Bomb Going Off (Yale University Press, 2015), her ambitious and fascinating biography and study of Yakobson’s life and career, to offer answers. This admirably researched and well-written book throws a sharply focused light on a truly extraordinary artist and courageous human being. It also convincingly provides the reader insights into what it means to be subject to the arbitrariness of a political system that uses art to cement ideology. While Like A Bomb remains focused on Yakobson, it offers just enough of a broader perspective of what other artists—Dmitri Shostakovich, Fyodor Lopukhov—had to live through. Many, of course, left Russia, Yakobson didn’t.
Ross sees Yakobson as an artist of resistance on two levels. Though committed to Ballet, he rethought it as a contemporary language; as a Jew he refused to reject his identity. He had great moral integrity that sustained him as a man and an artist who could not be silenced. Most remarkably, his passion for making dances never left him. Throughout the ups and downs of his career, Ross writes, Yakobson maintained “a deep focus on aesthetic objectives over political ones.” That’s what made him the artist he became.