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ballet, repression, and the soviet union?


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15 replies to this topic

#1 Guest_Tyraney_*

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Posted 16 October 2002 - 01:36 PM

i made the mistake of telling my teacher that i used to dance, and now she wants me to do a 5 page paper applying karl marx's "the communist manifesto" to the soviet union and how ballet was repressed there. problem is, i'm not finding sources to start from. i'm found a few select articles about individual dancers who left russia to have more freedom with their carreer, but nothing more severe than that. so i thought i'd come here for help. does anyone know anything about this subject or know of websites that would give me a solid base to work from? right now i'm hoping to find something on the russian revolution and how the arts were repressed immediatly following it (1930's i believe?).:confused:
anything will help. suggestions, personal experiences, a name.... anything. the paper's due next tuesday, but the sooner i find information the better chance i have of having a good paper.
thank you!!

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 16 October 2002 - 02:48 PM

Jenny, you could write a five-pager on WHETHER the Communist Manifesto applied to the Soviet Union at all, taken from a strictly economics and poli. sci. standpoint! Especially after the death of Lenin. My own quicky list on sources for an expansive topic like this would be the International Encyclopedia of Dance and follow the articles in there, and use the bibliographies for them to fill out your writing. I know we're not supposed to use encyclopedias, but this isn't like cribbing from Britannica, it's a highly specialized and huge collection of very useful articles. I hope you have access to a set!

#3 doug

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Posted 16 October 2002 - 08:45 PM

Try Elizabeth Souritz's "Soviet Choreographers in the 1920s" (Duke University Press, 1990).

#4 Guest_Tyraney_*

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Posted 16 October 2002 - 08:47 PM

thank you for your suggestion major mel!!
i agree on your point about marx hardly applying to the more recent soviet union completely!! unfortunatly, the unit's specifically on karl marx, so i have to find a way to make this work. which is why i'm focasing on the early soviet union-hoping that i can dig out something that didn't completely twist around marx's theories.
right now i've found clips about how the bolshoi's ballet was forced to be very political in order to stay in business, the various stages of the kirov ballet and how they too had to comform to government regulations, nureyev, and also various dancers that left russia for more freedom to express themselves.
i'm not really sure how to tie everything together yet. i'm still looking for a solid base. i do have access to the international encyclopedia of dance, but the nearest library that has it in it's stacks is an hour away. if you truely feel that it would be rather helpful, i'll jump in my car tomorrow!!
thank you again for your help! i thought this would be easier than it has been. i'm still kind of hoping for a book/website/article that has specifically done something on communism's effects on ballet, but so far i've found nothing.

#5 Mel Johnson

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Posted 17 October 2002 - 02:26 AM

I do believe that the IED would be worth the trip to the hour-away library. I know that there is a dedicated article to ballet in Russia and the Soviet Era. A long, long, article!:D

#6 Farrell Fan

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Posted 17 October 2002 - 11:13 AM

Among the "various dancers that left Russia for more freedom to express themselves" were Valery Panov and Galina Ragozina Panova. Panov wrote a book about their ordeal, "To Dance", published in 1978. I remember it as a great book, although I've forgotten it all. I don't know if it would help you, but you might find it interesting, since at one time, Panov was so well regarded by the regime that he won the Lenin Prize in 1969.

#7 fondu65

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Posted 17 October 2002 - 05:19 PM

You might want to look into the link between the ballet Spartacus and Karl Marx. From Google:

Karl Marx on Taxation: "Civil servants and priests, soldiers and ballet-dancers, schoolmasters and police constables, Greek museums and Gothic steeples, civil list and services list-the common seed within which all these fabulous beings slumber in embryo is taxation."

http://www.spicyquot...x_Taxation.html


24. Khachaturian: Ballet Music: The Soviet composer Khachaturian, of Armenian extraction, won particular fame for his ballet scores. Gayane was first staged in 1942 and subsequent productions have introduced variants into the basic story. Set on a collective farm in Armenia, it deals, in outline, with the drama of the peasant girl of the title, her cruel treatment and later rescue by a gallant leader of a Red Army group. The wedding of hero and heroine provides a scene for varied regional dances, including the well-known Kurdish Sabre Dance. The ballet Spartacus takes as its hero the leader of the slave rebellion against Rome in the first century B.C. It may be recalled that Karl Marx regarded Spartacus as the first great proletarian hero, who had, after all, nothing to lose but his chains. There is a lyrical celebration of the love of the hero and his beloved Phrygia and various characteristic dances, introduced in part as entertainment for the Roman general Crassus, who, historically, later met his death in Armenia. The Naxos issue of ballet music by Khachaturian also includes incidental music for Lermontov's play Masquerade, with its series of dances.

http://www.naxos.com/edu/ext_124.htm

'Grigorovich could only benefit from the fact that when he and Khachaturian were creating the ballet, the figure of Spartacus was serving as a kind of double agent in the former U.S.S.R. On the one hand, the Communist leaders endorsed him as the ultimate worker-hero (Karl Marx called him "the true representative of the proletarian of antiquity").'

http://www.city-puls...020116/theater/

#8 pumukau

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Posted 18 October 2002 - 06:29 AM

I agree with Mel; it's hard to see much of what Marx wrote in the society that Stalin created. But it is always instructive to study how Russia's unique mix of genius and brutality, freedom and repression, xenophobia and xenophilia (?), wealth and poverty shaped and was shaped by art.

"Between Heaven and Hell....The story of a thousand years of artistic life in Russia" by W. Bruce Lincoln is a great read and a good resource to give you a perspective. The chapter on Socialist Realism applies to your paper. The index backs up Mel's observation; in a 500 page discussion of art and repression in Russia there is not a single reference to Karl Marx! So I guess you might want to examine how Lenin and Stalin distorted the Marx, although if your teacher is looking for an indictment of Marx that's probably what you should give her.

Ballet at the time of the revolution was the showpiece of Russian culture, in part because Russia's brilliant literature did not export well to European languages and print. It was a major conduit for conveying the artistic enthusiasm and idealism that infused the revolution. How ironic that the real realists were Diaghilev and Balanchine and the many dancers who knew enough to flee the realities of Social Realism! By the time Stalin was in charge novels had to be dumbed down to what a factory worker could read after shovelling coal for 12 hours. Sort of like cable TV come to think of it.

Here's what I think: great art is a gift of God to individuals in a vital social context. For my money there is no greater metaphor for this process, or tool to carry it on, than ballet. Societies that either decide that there is no God or that only the supreme rulers are in touch with the divine inevitably destroy themselves.

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 October 2002 - 07:51 AM

Keith's point is well-taken. What I'm really curious to know is the relationship that Agrippina Vaganova had toward keeping the ballet as a state organization. The Conventional Wisdom has her convincing the Communist authorities personally that Russian Ballet was a national treasure rather than a bauble of the Empire and thus retained support for the art when so many forms of expression were being squashed.

#10 pumukau

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Posted 18 October 2002 - 08:16 AM

One other thought, Jenny, could you post your paper when you finish it? You don' t have to of course, but I've always thought that threads that begin "I have to write a paper about...." should at least end with the finished product!

#11 Guest_Tyraney_*

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Posted 18 October 2002 - 09:15 AM

sure!! i'd be glad to!! i have to turn it in by tuesday, so hopefully i'll have it up around then. i can't guarentee anything great because i'm not the world's best writer, but...
and thank you everyone for all your help!! i'm extatic that i've gotten so many responses. i didn't think i'd get any. you've all been wonderful!!

#12 Guest_Tyraney_*

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Posted 15 December 2002 - 10:18 PM

i decided to do the full ten page paper (actually, it ended up being 12 pages :D ) on this topic, and i handed it in on thursday. i have the paper up on a website, so that as requested, you can all view it (and tell me if i screwed anything up ;) ) thank you again for all of your help, and here's a link to the site:
http://hometown.aol....mandballet.html

#13 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 16 December 2002 - 03:35 AM

mel, what do you know of the role of anatoly lunacharsky in convincing the government to keep ballet alive after the revolution? i've heard some things and even seen a little bit of film of him giving a speech but haven't been able to find much else.

#14 Mel Johnson

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Posted 16 December 2002 - 05:50 AM

He was the first Commissar of Education for the USSR. He's sometimes mistaken in films for Lenin, as they looked somewhat similar. He was the local delegate for Petrograd to the National (Supreme) Soviet before Sergei Kirov, so he would have been a natural for Vaganova to buttonhole about the ballet schools, which had been, before the Revolution, a state function, as opposed to government. He didn't last very long, dying sometime in the early thirties, but at least from what I know, Stalin didn't absolutely hate him, so he would have been able to get his programs through.

PS. All I know about Lunacharsky comes from a study of the Russian Civil War of the early twenties.

#15 citibob

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Posted 16 December 2002 - 06:59 AM

Griskovic's "Ballet 101" book discusses this issue.


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