Robert Johnson reviews “Like a Bomb Going Off” for Forward

Dance critic Robert Johnson reviewed Janice Ross’s book Like a Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia for the publication Forward.

From the piece:

In a world where obtuse government functionaries made aesthetic decisions, this artist insisted on creating a new vocabulary for dance, rejecting the familiar tropes of classical ballet and replacing collective ideals with a personal vision. His approach resembled American modern dance. And from a Soviet official’s point of view, these things were worse than the gentle awakening of “The Kiss” or the sexual violence of “Minotaur and Nymph.”

In Ross’s account, it becomes clear that what Soviet officials objected to was not simply the ballet’s ending, in which an impoverished schlemiel despairs when his true love’s parents arrange for her to marry a wealthy man.

But what concerned the officials even more was the ballet’s affirmation of a Jewish identity separating the dancers’ bodies from the body politic in which citizens of the USSR were meant to submerge their differences.

Read the piece