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Ulanova on stage

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the photo scanned here, with "15 mai 54" handwritten on the back, would seem to have been sent ahead to Paris, where the first, large-scale season of Soviet ballet was scheduled, but which then got cancelled (for 'political' reasons?).

The '56 London season later became the 'Western debut' landmark when the Bolshoi Ballet played Covent Garden.

This rehearsal/promotional photo shows Ulanova and an unidentifed man on a stage set for the wedding sc. of Lavrovsky's ROMEO AND JULIET - this ballet was shown in East Berlin with a combined co. of Kirov and Bolshoi Ballet co. dancers around the time of the aborted Paris season.


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RG, I happen to be reading Galina Ulanova's memoirs at the moment in which she recalls the Bolshoi's aborted Paris debut in May 1954. This was a combined group of Kirov and Bolshoi (a large Kirov group headed by Dudinskaya, Sergeyev, Shelest, Kurgapkina and a smaller Bolshoi one led by Struchkova, herself and several principal men). She describes it as the first time full-length Soviet ballets were to be performed in the West, concert outings had occurred previously. They were in Paris almost 3 weeks, making long preparations (due to the unfamiliarity of Prokofiev and Russian music to the Parisian orchestra, as well as to last-minute adjustments to the large-scale Bolshoi scenery into the smaller Garnier). The performances were cancelled on the very day of the opening, she said, due to a critical escalation in the Indo-China war, where the USSR had long been backing Vietnam against France, culminating in the heavy defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu on May 8, with several thousand casualties. The French government held a national period of mourning and banned all entertainment, she says, for 3 days, particularly Soviet, which directly hit this Kirov/Bolshoi tour. The USSR hurriedly arranged an East German tour to save face and the company went straight on to Berlin. Ulanova said many photographs and even critiques of their rehearsals were carried in French newspapers in the days before the scheduled premiere, as the rehearsals were crowded with French dancers, coaches and critics (the Paris ballet was directed then by Ulanova's compatriot Serge Lifar and many leading dancers of the time were Russian-trained). Presumably this is one of the photos. Ismene Brown

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very many thanks for all the feedback.

i heard from two email correspondents with information to the same effect as that above, who found ref. to the aborted paris season in contemporary issues of BALLET ANNUAL and of DANCE AND DANCERS.

to be sure the fuller view posted here from GSU's memoirs is more detailed.

i also have the substantial french souvenir prog. prepared for this run; i hadn't realized the season was cancelled so close to the opening, that is, on the opening day.

horst koegler filed a report for DANCE MAGAZINE - noted in the NYPL cat. - from east berlin on the tour's german appearances.

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