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.