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Dance Symposium at Columbia


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The release:


An International Symposium

Organized by Lynn Garafola and Catharine Nepomnyashchy

Thursday, February 12 - Saturday, February 14

In the years that followed the Russian Revolution theorists and practitioners of movement feverishly explored ways to remake the human body. In studios and theater laboratories, choreographers explored new movement languages, seeking materials for a new Soviet body in acrobatics, “free movement,” physical culture, popular dance, music-hall styles, and even ballet. By the 1930s this experimental impulse was largely spent. However, ballet had absorbed many of its core ideas: the new Soviet man as expressed in ballet of the 1930s was “muscular” and athletic. He tossed partners in the air and held them overhead in spectacular lifts. His body told a plain story, free of dreaminess and unembellished by stylistic niceties, and he often embodied the “others” of the Soviet periphery in vigorous national dances. A distinctive Soviet approach to choreography and performance, reflected above all in Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, had been born.

Meanwhile in the communities of “Russia Abroad” the experimental impulse of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes gave way in the 1930s to works that revealed only a tenuous sense of Russian identity. Yet ballet itself was now widely viewed as a Russian (as opposed to Italian or French) phenomenon, an art dominated by émigré teachers, dancers, and choreographers. They brought with them a belief in ballet as a high art exemplifying refinement and good manners, and a passion for the ballerina eclipsed by Diaghilev’s promotion of the male dancer. Echoes of surrealism appeared in many ballets, and there was a growing number of semi-plotless works. As period footage makes clear, by World War II the ballet communities of Soviet Russia and Russia Abroad had little in common.

World War II divided the European émigré ballet community. The major Ballets Russes companies fled to the United States, where their dancers and choreographers quickly put down roots. Meanwhile, in Europe, others, including Serge Lifar, ballet director of the Paris Opéra and a member of the émigré elite, collaborated with the Germans.

With an international roster of scholars, Russian Movement Culture of the 1920s and 1930s will explore these pivotal decades in the evolution of Russian ballet and the making of a modern Russian body both in Russia itself and abroad.

Where: School of International and Public Affairs

420 West 118th Street, New York, NY 10027

Free and open to the public.

About the Speakers

Aleksandar Boškovic' is a specialist in Russian and Balkan modernism. He completed his Ph.D. in Slavic literatures at University of Michigan and joined the Columbia Slavic department in 2013, where he now teaches. His first book, The Poetic Humor in Vasko Popa’s Oeuvre, was published in 2008 by the Institute for Literature and Art in Belgrade, where he was previously employed. His recent articles on digital mnemonics and Yugonostalgia are published in Digital Icons (2014) and Slavic Review (2013), respectively, while his study on Yuri Rozhkov’s photomontages for Mayakovsky’s propagandistic poem “To the Workers of Kursk” is included in the Russian reconstruction of the unpublished 1924 book (2014). His current research focuses on the cross-cultural and interdisciplinary exploration of photopoetry and bioscopic books within Slavic avant-gardes.

Christina Ezrahi is an independent scholar based in Tel Aviv and London specializing in the history of Russian ballet. She was educated at the universities of Princeton, Oxford, and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. Her recent book Swans of the Kremlin. Ballet and Power in Soviet Russia investigates the collision of art and politics at the Maryinsky/Kirov and Bolshoi Ballet companies during the volatile first fifty years of Soviet power. A frequent commentator on Russian ballet in the international media, she is currently working on a biography of the Kirov Ballet character dancer Nina Anisimova (1909-1979).

Mark Franko is Professor of Dance and Coordinator of Graduate Studies, Boyer College of Music and Dance, Temple University, and Professor in Performance and Visual Studies, School of Performing Arts and Media, Middlesex University (London). He has published six books: Martha Graham in Love and War: The Life in the Work; Excursion for Miracles: Paul Sanasardo, Donya Feuer, and Studio for Dance; The Work of Dance: Labor, Movement, and Identity in the 1930s; Dancing Modernism/Performing Politics; Dance as Text: Ideologies of the Baroque Body; The Dancing Body in Renaissance Choreography. He is editor of Dance Research Journal and founding editor of the Oxford Studies in Dance Theory book series. He is recipient of the 2011 Outstanding Scholarly Research in Dance Award from the Congress in Research in Dance.

Lynn Garafola is a Professor of Dance at Barnard College, Columbia University. A dance historian and critic, she is the author of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and Legacies of Twentieth-Century Dance, and the editor of several books, including The Diaries of Marius Petipa (which she also translated), André Levinson on Dance: Writings from Paris in the Twenties (with Joan Acocella); Rethinking the Sylph: New Perspectives on the Romantic Ballet; and The Ballets Russes and Its World. She has curated the exhibitions Dance for a City: Fifty Years of the New York City Ballet (at the New-York Historical Society); 500 Years of Italian Dance: Treasures from the Cia Fornaroli Collection (with Patrizia Veroli), New York Story: Jerome Robbins and His World, and Diaghilev’s Theater of Marvels: The Ballets Russes and Its Aftermath (all at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts). A former Guggenheim fellow, she is writing a book about the choreographer Bronislava Nijinska.

Susan Grant, Ph.D., is an Irish Research Council/Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow, based for two years at the University of Toronto and now at University College Dublin. Her research interests include Russian and Soviet history, the history of sport and physical culture, and the history of health care. Her monograph, Physical Culture and Sport in Soviet Society: Propaganda, Acculturation, and Transformation in the 1920s and 1930s (2012), focuses on physical culture during the first two decades of Soviet power, examining the origins of Soviet physical culture and showing how the ideology of physical culture was applied in an attempt to modernize and civilize Soviet citizens. She is currently working on a history of Soviet nursing during the interwar period, exploring issues of professionalism, gender, and care.

Marion Kant earned her Ph.D. in Musicology at Humboldt University, Berlin. She teaches at the University of Cambridge in the German Department and at the University of Pennsylvania. Her areas of research focus on modernism and its manifestations in nineteenth and twentieth-century Europe, particularly on German movement cultures, Romantic ballet, the history and aesthetics of early twentieth-century avantgarde movements and the arts during the Weimar Republic, the evolution of Nazi ideology and Nazi aesthetics, and the anti-fascist exile of artists and critics. With the musicians Sam Hsu and Marshall Taylor she organized a concert series on “Degenerate Music” – the music banned by the Nazis. More than ten concerts have taken place.

Edward Kasinec holds graduate degrees from Columbia University (M.A., 1968, M.Phil., 1979), and Simmons College (M.L.S., 1976). In addition he has been awarded a Certificate in Appraisal Studies (Fine and Decorative Arts, 2010) from New York University. His professional career includes service as Reference Librarian/Archivist for the Harvard University Library and the Ukrainian Research Institute Library (1973-80); Librarian for Slavic Collections, University of California, Berkeley, Library (1980-84); and Curator, Slavic and Baltic Division, The New York Public Library (1984-2009; 2009-2011, as Staff Advisor to the Exhibitions Program). He presently holds appointment as a Staff Associate, Harriman Institute, Columbia University. He is the author of more than two hundred refereed articles and books and has been acknowledged in equally as many academic publications.

Elizabeth Kendall is a dance and culture critic and a professor of Writing/Literary Studies at New School (Eugene Lang College and Liberal Studies graduate faculties). Her book Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the Making of a Choreographer, was published in July 2013 by Oxford University Press. She has also written Where She Danced: The Birth of American Art Dance; The Runaway Bride: Hollywood Romantic Comedy of the l930’s; two memoirs, American Daughter and Autobiography of a Wardrobe, and many magazine, newspaper, and journal articles. She has received fellowships from the Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and Fulbright Foundations, the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, Russia’s Likhachev Foundation, and CUNY’s Levy Center for Biography. She is working at present on Rudolf Nureyev (a small book) and on Balanchine before the founding of the NYCB.

Anna Kisselgoff was Chief Dance Critic of the New York Times from 1977 to 2005. Earlier, she had worked as a dance critic and cultural news reporter for the paper, and she continued as a staff writer until leaving the Times in 2006. She remains a contributor to the Times and other publications . Over the years, she has reviewed ballet, modern dance, ethnic dance, tap dance, Michael Jackson – and at the 1988 Olympics – ice dancing and the rodeo. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, she holds an M.A. in European history and an M.S. in Journalism, both from Columbia University, where she has received alumni awards in both fields. Other awards for her writing include the Order of the Dannebrog from Denmark and the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Government. The President of Iceland personally awarded her the Order of the Falcon. She studied ballet in New York with Jean Yazvinsky, a dancer in Diaghilev 's Ballets Russes. She has taught at Yale University, Barnard College, and Hollins University.

Sanja Andus L’Hotellier is a dance historian, who received her Ph.D. from the Université de Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis where she is an Associate Researcher. Her book Les Archives Internationales de la Danse-Un projet inachevé 1931-1952 was published by Ressouvenances in 2012. She has served on research projects with the Dance Museum, Centre National de la Danse, Institut Mémoires de l'édition contemporaine (IMEC), and Mas de la Danse and has received research awards from the French Ministry of Culture, Rolf de Maré Foundation, and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A Visiting Scholar in History at Columbia University from 2011-2013, she is a fellow of the Columbia Oral History Institute. Her current work focuses on the Bennington Summer School of the Dance Oral History Project. She is on the editorial board of SDHS.

Nicoletta Misler was until she retired, Professor of Russian and East European Art at the Università di Napoli "L' Orientale" in Italy. Her academic interests range from the artists and philosophers of Russian Modernism such as Kazimir Malevich, Pavel Filonov, and Pavel Florensky to the free dance in Soviet Russia in the 1920s and 1930s, and she has published widely on these subjects. She has organized major exhibitions in Rome and Moscow and is now preparing an English-language version of her Russian monograph on the art of movement in Moscow in the 1910s-1930s, V nachale bylo telo [in the beginning was the body]. She has also written extensively on Soviet architecture publishing articles on Ivan Leonidov, Yakov Chernikhov, and others. The recipient of many international fellowships, she has conducted research in Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, and the United States. She has been a visiting scholar at universities in Australia, Israel, and the United States.

Simon Morrison, Professor of Music at Princeton University, specializes in Russian and French music of the twentieth century. He has conducted research in St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Paris, London, New York, and extensively in Moscow. Morrison is the author of Russian Opera and the Symbolist Movement (California, 2002) and The People’s Artist: Prokofiev’s Soviet Years (Oxford, 2009) as well as editor of Prokofiev and His World (Princeton, 2008). His articles have appeared in Journal of the American Musicological Society, 19th-Century Music, Cambridge Opera Journal, Journal of Musicology, Music & Letters, and Slavic Review. Currently he is writing a history of the Bolshoi Ballet, under contract with Norton, and restoring the score of Cole Porter’s ballet Within the Quota. In 2008, Morrison restored the scenario and score of the original (1935) version of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet for the Mark Morris Dance Group.

Catharine Nepomnyashchy is Professor of Russian Literature and Culture and Chair of the Slavic Department at Barnard College, Columbia University. Her books include Abram Tertz and the Poetics of Crime (Yale, 1995); Strolls with Pushkin, which she translated with Slava Yastremski and for which she wrote the introduction (Yale, 1993); Under the Sky of My Africa: Alexander Pushkin and Blackness, edited with Nicole Svobodny and Ludmilla Trigos (Northwestern 2006); and Mapping the Feminine: Russian Women and Cultural Difference, edited with Irina Reyfman and Hilde Hoogenboom (Slavica, 2008). She has published extensively on Soviet and post-Soviet literature and popular culture, Pushkin, Russian ballet, Russian émigré literature and culture, and the future of regional studies. She is currently working on a book entitled Nabokov and His Enemies: Terms of Engagement. She is a former Director of the Harriman Institute.

Serguei Oushakine is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Slavic Languages and Literatures at Princeton, where he directs the Program in Russian and Eurasian Studies. His research is concerned with transitional processes and situations: from the formation of newly independent national cultures after the collapse of the Soviet Union to post-traumatic identities and hybrid cultural forms. His current project explores Eurasian postcoloniality as a means of affective reformatting of the past and as a form of retroactive victimhood. Oushakine edited special collections of essays(in English and Russian) on affect and cinema, new materialism, early Soviet laughter, contemporary nomadism, and architectural memories. His research was supported by the Social Science Research Council, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Council for East European and Eurasian Research, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. During 2014-2015, Oushakine is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

Robert O. Paxton is professor emeritus of Modern European History at Columbia University. He specializes in the history of Europe in the twentieth century, with particular emphasis on fascism and on the collaborationist government of Marshal Pétain that ran the unoccupied part of France during the German occupation of 1940-1944. Among his works are Parades and Politics at Vichy (1966), Vichy France: Old Guard and New Order (1972, new ed. 2001), Vichy France and the Jews (with Michael Marrus) (1981), French Peasant Fascism (1997), and The Anatomy of Fascism (2004). His textbook Twentieth Century Europe, now with Julie Hessler, is in its fifth edition (2011).

Janice Ross, Professor, Theatre and Performance Studies Department, at Stanford University, is the author of Like A Bomb Going Off: Leonid Yakobson and Ballet as Resistance in Soviet Russia (Yale University Press January 2015). Her books include: Anna Halprin: Experience as Dance (2007), San Francisco Ballet at 75 (2007) and Moving Lessons: Margaret H’Doubler and The Beginning of Dance in American Education (2001). Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, Fulbright Scholar Fellowship, Stanford Humanities Center Fellowships, Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Fellowship, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. For ten years she was staff dance critic for The Oakland Tribune and for twenty years the San Francisco contributing editor to Dance Magazine. She is past president of both the Society of Dance History Scholars and the Dance Critics Association.

Tim Scholl is a scholar of Russian and a dance historian who has written two books on the history of Russian dance: From Petipa to Balanchine, Classical Revival and the Modernization of Ballet (Routledge 1994) and Sleeping Beauty, A Legend in Progress (Yale 2004). Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at Oberlin College, Scholl is also a docent in the Theatre Research Department of Helsinki University, where he held a Fulbright teaching/research fellowship in 2000-01. His current research examines Russian and Soviet ballet as an artifact of empire and explores the ballet’s engagement with borders and borderlands, from the purported foreign “domination” of the Russian ballet in the nineteenth century through the cultural exchange process of the Cold-War period.

Irina Sirotkina received her Candidate of Science degree from the Moscow State University and her Ph.D. from the University of Manchester. She is full-time Researcher at the Institute for History of Science and Technology in Moscow. Her first book, Diagnosing Literary Genius: A Cultural History of Psychiatry in Russia, 1880-1930 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002) was awarded the MLA Award in Slavic Literature and Languages. In the last decade she has worked extensively on the dance and movement culture in Russia. Her book, Free Movement and Modern Dance in Russia, came out in Moscow in 2012, and her latest book, The Sixth Sense of the Avant-Garde: Dance, Movement, Kinaesthesia in the Lives of Poets and Artists, was published by the European University Press in St. Petersburg in 2014. She is also a recreational dancer in a “musical movement” group and writes dance criticism.

Edward Tyerman is a Term Assistant Professor in the Slavic Department at Barnard College, Columbia University. His research focuses on Russian literature and culture of the twentieth century, with a comparative interest in modern Chinese culture and experiences of socialism and post-socialism across greater Eurasia. He is currently at work on turning his Ph.D. dissertation, “The Search for an Internationalist Aesthetics: Soviet Images of China, 1920–1935” (Columbia, 2014) into a book manuscript. This project argues that the aesthetic representation of internationalist ideology in early Soviet culture found its fullest expression through the variety of aesthetic strategies used to re-imagine China, via multiple media including film, theater, ballet, and documentary writing, as the next scene of socialist revolution.

Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier, Harriman Scholar, Columbia University, has specialized, taught, and published in two fields – Soviet foreign policy and history of Russian art. Her publications include: Soviet Union and the Third World: An Economic Bind; Russian Realist Art, the State and Society; biographies of Ily Repin and Valentin Serov, and two edited volumes – an anthology on Russian realist art and on the Wanderers (Peredvizhniki), as well as numerous chapters and articles for academic publications.

Patrizia Veroli is an independent dance scholar from Rome, Italy. The author and co-author of several books, she taught at the University of Rome “La Sapienza” from 2004-2010. In addition she has co-edited the journal La danza Italiana and curated with Lynn Garafola the exhibition Five Hundred Years of Italian Dance (The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, 2006). Among the volumes she has coedited are Les Archives Internationales de la Danse 1931-1952 (2006), Omaggio a Djagilev (2011), and I Ballets Russes di Diaghilev tra storia e mito (2013). A member of the Advisory Board of Dance Chronicle and Recherches en danse, she is currently the President of the Italian Association for Dance Research.

James von Geldern is Professor of International Studies and Russian at Macalester College, where he teaches courses on Soviet culture and international law. He is author of Bolshevik Festivals, 1917-1920, co-author of Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays and Folklore, 1917-1953 (1995), and Entertaining Tsarist Russia: Urban Entertainments, 1798-1917 (1998, and co-developer of the website Seventeen Moments in Soviet History (soviethistory.macalester.edu). He is also a practicing attorney, representing asylum seekers pro bono in collaboration with the Advocates for Human Rights of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Richard Wortman, James Bryce Professor Emeritus of European Legal History, specializes in the history of imperial Russia. His publications include Scenarios of Power: Myth and Ceremony in Russian Monarchy. Volume One: From Peter the Great to the Death of Nicholas I (Princeton University Press, 1995), and the second volume of the work From Alexander II to the Abdication of Nicholas II (Princeton University Press, 2000), (Russian translation, OGI Press, 2004), which was awarded the George L. Mosse prize of the American Historical Association. The two volumes were awarded the 2006 Efim Etkind prize of the St. Petersburg European University for the best western work on Russian culture and literature.


An International Symposium

The Harriman Institute

Thursday, February 12, to Saturday, February 14, 2015

Organized by Lynn Garafola and Catharine Nepomnyashchy


All sessions take place at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street, New York, NY 10027.

Thursday, 12 February 2015 (1501 SIA)

4:30-6:00 Opening and keynote address

4:40-4:45 Welcome: Timothy Frye, Director, Harriman Institute

4:45-5:00 Symposium welcome: Catherine Nempomnyashchy/Lynn Garafola

5:00-6:00 Keynote: Simon Morrison, “How the Bolshoi Ballet Survived the Revolution”

6:00-7:00 Reception (lobby)

Friday, 13 February 2015 (1512 SIA)

10:00-12:15 Making the New Soviet Body

Introduced by Aleksandar Boškovic'

Nicoletta Misler, “Feeling, Sentiment, and the Soviet Body: From Isadora Duncan to the Russian Avant-Garde”

Irina Sirotkina, “Choreographing Physical Culture: Between War, Theater, and Circus”

Susan Grant, “Bodies in Motion: Physical Culture and the Construction of the New Soviet Person”

James Von Geldern, “‘How Wide is My Motherland’: Moving through Space and Time in Aleksandrov’s Musicals”

Discussant: Serguei Oushakine

Q&A (15 minutes):

12:15-12:45 Dancing in Soviet Russia: footage

12:45-2:00 Lunch

2:00-4:30 A New Soviet Ballet

Introduced by Anna Kisselgoff

Edward Tyerman, “The Red Poppy and 1927: Translating Contemporary China into Early Soviet Ballet”

Janice Ross, “Leonid Yakobson’s Muscular Choreography and The Golden Age

Tim Scholl, “From Moscow and Back: Creating and Assessing the ‘National’ Ballets of Caucasia in the 1930s”

Christina Ezrahi, "Experiments in Character Dance: From Leningrad's Estrada to the Kirov Ballet”

Discussant: Irina Klyagin

Q&A (15 minutes)

4:30-4:45 Break (15 minutes)

4:45-5:30 Alexei Ratmansky’s recreations of Bolt and Flames of Paris, excerpts introduced by Irina Klyagin.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

10:00-12:45 The Problematical Career of Serge Lifar

Introduced by Richard Wortman

Patrizia Veroli, “Modest L. Gofman as the Ghostwriter of Serge Lifar’s Early Books”

Mark Franko, “The Politics of Serge Lifar”

Sanja Andus L’Hotellier, “Lifar in Oral Histories of the Archives Internationales de la Danse”

Edward Kasinec, “The 1830 Pushkin Letters to Goncharova: Their Twentieth-Century Fate”

Discussant: Robert Paxton

Q&A (15 minutes)

12:45-2:00 Lunch

2:00-5:30 Emigré Bodies

Introduced by Elizabeth Valkenier

Marion Kant, “Russian Ballet in Berlin After 1917"

Daria Khitova, “Nijinsky’s Afterimages in Eisenstein’s and Chaplin’s Eyes”

Elizabeth Kendall, “Balanchine, Cotillon, and the ‘Baby Ballerinas’”

Lynn Garafola, “Soviet Bodies, Emigré Bodies: Bronislava Nijinska’s Career in the Late 1920s and 1930s”

Dancers of Russia Abroad (footage)

Discussant: Tatiana Smolyarova

Q&A (15 minutes)

Conclusions: Lynn Garafola & Simon Morrison

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If yesterday's opening session is any indication of what's coming today and tomorrow, then we are in for a real treat. In the keynote presentation, Simon Morrison made an eloquent presentation of the state of the Bolshoi Ballet in the first ten years following the 1917 revolution. So much new info was revealed...such as the vital role played by two strong women: Ballerina Ekaterina Geltser (particularly in the fate of RED POPPY coming to light) and the woman appointed by Minister of Culture Lunacharsky to head the theatre and to "do his dirty work," Ekaterina Malinovskaya.

Morrison reminded us that a major English source for Bolshoi history in the 20s, Elizabeth Souritz' work, was originally published in Russia in 1979...so much vital information is diluted or missing. Hence, I can't wait for Morrison's upcoming tome on the true history of the Bolshoi in the 20th C.

It was really nice to see old friends and meet new ones at the happy hour.

P.s. I was somewhat saddened when, in her welcoming remarks, Lynn Garafola said that her co-chair (co-organizer) of this symposium, Catherine Nepomnyashchy, would not be present at this event. I hope that she 's ok and just had to travel. Wishing her well.

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Friday morning panel on 'movement arts' other than ballet examined everything from Duncan-style dancing (StP-based amateur Greek-Duncan amateur group GEPTAKOR that still exists), to the schools phys-ed agenda to sculpt kids' bodies into Soviet Ideal, to the May-Day parades on Red Square (Stalin hired theatre directors to carefully choreograph these for maximal impact and emotion), to Alexandrov musicals of the 30s with cast-of-thousands finales. Some of the folks in audience deemed this panel 'creepy' and wondered if some of USSR's plans involved genetic engineering.

Afternoon panel, with Anna Kisselgoff as moderator, was all about ballet, including:

Edward Tyerman - delved deeply into RED POPPY, even the changes in libretto...Gliere and others on Bolshoi creative team intended this to be a ballet about the French Revolution, before the Kremlin asked that it be changed to an 'international communism' subject. China was selected for number of reasons even though Soviets were kicked out of Port Arthur and Shanghai two years before the ballet premiered!

Janice Ross gave us a fascinating look into the creation of GOLDEN AGE in Leningrad, presenting clip of a 1960 recreation of the 'Sporting Pas de Cinq' from Jacobsen's A2 of the 1930 original, which was first danced by Ulanova and four young male dancers incl K. Sergeev; the dancers in the 1960 film not identified.

Tim Scholl spoke about the 'dekada' festivals that began in the 1930s to spotlight a selected Soviet Republic's culture each year, concentrating on Azerbaijan-1938, including the Azeri ballerina Gamar Almaz-Ade and her works, such as MAIDEN'S TOWER.

My own favorite segment: Christina Ezrahi's delving into the importance of character dance, especially in the 30s, culminating with Vainonen's PARTISAN DAYS at the Kirov, the only ballet created to include ONLY character dancers (Anissimova starred as the heroine; no classical soloists or corps in the entire 3-act work). Interestingly, this was a result of the Kremlin lashing out against the 'falsehoods' of BRIGHT STREAM which showed 'fake' collective workers on pointe.

Irina Klyagin of the Harvard Theatre Collection summed everything up nicely.

Saturday (today) will be all about émigrés, including a morning devoted to Serge Lifar and his heritage. Afternoon will look at other émigrés such as Balanchine and the three Baby Ballerinas (Elizabeth Kendall's segment of afternoon session) and Nijinska in late 20s/30s (bit of a preview of Lynn Garafola's upcoming bio of the choreographer). There may be surprises, as the original titles of Friday's topics did not give many clues to what was eventually presented; I tried to summarize what was really discussed. Academics keep their intentions close to the vest, it seems. (Wink)

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I had to slip out to catch train back to DC. Will have more to say later but a highlight of the day was seeing, then meeting Allegra Kent, who popped up in the audience during Qs/As to relate a story about her first ballet classes with Nijinska!

The other highlight of the day was the VERY spirited discussions on whether or not Lifar was truly a Nazi sympathizer (in his heart and soul...beyond found what he did to survive and keep the POB halls open and thriving during WWII).

By the way, it's being debated whether or not to make the proceedings of the conference available in some form.

Off to the train.

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I managed to make it in for the Friday afternoon presentation... what a treat.... So wonderful that the very personable Garafola put this together. The room was small and packed cheek-by-jowel with ballet's intelligentsia... it almost seemed like a class reunion for a generation of critics/dance historians/balletomanes.... (I felt a bit like a representative of the perhaps more ignorant general public.) If only my memory were as sharp as the rest of the assembled, I could share more interesting tidbits with you...

Best would be for you to have been there...

Meanwhlie, I'm afraid I can only offer a stream of consciousness from my notes... (and ipads though handy, virtual keyboards are not easy to type on)

Bits I managed to note: Please, those who were there and have sharper memories, please correct the errors I surely include below... I probably have half of it wrong:

Kisselgoff mentioned that Anna Sokolow and Pauline Koner had both been to Russia in the early days and come back fascinated and loving ballet... without thinking, as a young interviewer, Kisselgoff asked Sokolow why she hadn't gone into ballet then instead of modern, and then remembered.. there were no ballet companies in America for Sokolow or Koner to join in the late 20s early 30s, only some dancers attached to opera companies. I had never thought it through... had never thought of the environment for those early modern dance troupes in this way. I always thought they were in reaction to "decorative/pretty/empty" ballet, but it never occurred to me that thought they were the ONLY American dance companies... that a whole generations of dancers had grown up without ever seeing a Nutcracker.

Kisselgoff also mentioned that the Russians had gone to Pauline Koner as a source for latin american character dances (if I've got this right... maybe I don't).

The Red Poppy was interesting in it's evolution... "more or less the same, except the opposite" was the running theme... with a certain craziness.... For instance, it was pointed out that they were using a symbol of imperialist oppression (The Poppy - opium) as a symbol of communist revolutionary spirit... and that there were mistranslations of the main character's name which made things complicated in later productions. Perhaps they were trying to co-op the symbolism and repurpose it for the soviet cause, but mostly it seemed confused... There were other other substitutions of symbolic opposites (British Imperialist Battleship vs. Soviet Steamer). Dancing flowers were not seen as suitable for the new soviet art form... "Fantasy is more dull than Reality..." but the Red Poppy did not seem to manage that with it's familiar fantasy, dreams and exoticism treatment. They were called out for glamorizing opium. One can't have escapism and passing on the revolution at the same time.

I have lost track between the early Soviet Ballets ... was the Red Poppy the result of a ballet libretto competition or was that The Golden Age or The Bolt or The Partisans? 3 choreographers, one for each act including the surprise inclusion of the young Yacobson (who only discovered ballet at the age of 17?)... I believe this was The Golden Age...

A work could be very popular in the theater with the public, receiving many repeat performances, but Pravda's ideologues (who were soon under considerable stress to give the appropriate interpretation in Stalin's estimation) would officially report it to be a flop. Then it would not be presented again and the official history would record it to have been a flop.

It was not long before the creative artists and performers were terrified to make mistakes and ballets had be approved by many different groups.. they would be forced to undergo many revisions in plot and decor...

"Dance for Dance's Sake" was deemed so subversive that one had to create a scenario to disguise it, and Yacobson would create a ballet about a ballet class in order to show choreography as "exercises" so that he would not fall afoul of the anti-formalists and be considered to be promoting the aesthetic of the decadent west.

We were shown an interesting clip of Ulanova's 1960s reconstruction of something (mentioned above by Natalia as the Sporting Pas de Cinq) she danced in The Golden Age. It was interesting to see the photo of the young Ulanova, with such a supple back. The gymnastics were interesting... the view of the dancers not as much including gymnastics feats as choreography as presenting gymnasts and atheletes as representatives of the ideal human physical form... very creative with swimming imagery, dancers at times supporting other dancers as if they were the water the dancer was swimming above, or creating the bar for another dancer's high jump... more a mix of physical theater with ballet than I would have imagined...

"The Bolt" that was the downfall of Shostakovich & Lopukhov, both of whom thought they had a big hit on their hands... (but would Stalin have approved of anything mentioning the idea of a saboteur even if the soviets were eventually triumphant?). The footage of the Ratmansky recreation (without using the original costume designs) looked interesting at first. I'm afraid that the later Ratmansky footage both of Bolt and of Flames of Paris were disappointing, but perhaps because of the camera. There seemed to be "a lot going on" that the camera tried to catch with close-ups but this disorientation just kept it from coming together. I could not tell if the theater experience were better, but I expect it was. There were many in the room that knew what spoken words of the ballet meant, but English subtitles were not included on the footage, so it was lost on me. The sound speakers for the presentation were not technologically very kind to the musicians. It was interesting to see, but I'm glad I did not make the trip in just for that. A friend who had been to the Mihailovsky "Flames" presentation last Fall here in NYC tells me it was a different version, by a Messerer and very successful. I would like to see both. With Osipova & Vasiliev in both, it was easy to forget there were two different productions of Flames out there.

One of the new soviet ballets depicted with it's "portrayal of the loneliness of the decaying bourgeoisie" ... with gloom swept away by the enthusiasm of the triumphant young partisans (perhaps this was "The Partisans"?).

There was the humorous account of the ballerina (Anissimova?) so carried away with her presentation of this revolution fervor that she would cry "after me!" to the other dancers in the wings as she dashed on stage...

I was touched by the idealism of the era... in the beginning they really thought they were creating a new era of art, and trying to figure out what that should be... I believe there was a parallel idealism/enthusiasm in dance in America as well, with the early modern dance choreographers and the attempts to create an "American" ballet... What was it about the 30s that would have created this idealism? Clinging to idealism in an era of desperation? Idealism after the fashionable decadence of the 20s?

There was a lot of pressure for "monumental" in the new art forms... so easily brought to mind by soviet realism in visual art, but perhaps this was exemplified by Yacobson's gymnasts in The Golden Age... ?

The Golden Age -- a ballet about a soccer team!... I believe Janice Ross said it was set place in "FasciLandia".

I believe that Ross said that although it was "obedient to soviet ideals" as laid out in the libretto competition, there were plenty of ... not sure this is the right phrase... but inside jokes... that could be seen as the opposite of "obedient"... I gather it was humorously poking fun at itself at the same time as it was promoting the cause.... sardonic even as it was altruistic?

Tim Scholl's presentation was entertaining too. I have managed to confuse the material he presented with that presented by Christina Ezrahi. He touched on the incongruity of trying to collect folk dance never intended for the proscenium stage and then re-shaping it for theatrical standards for performance by classically trained dancers and musicians to be then shown back to the nations... an interesting mirror to present to them.... some of these cultures where women were never to dance in public! And then, imagine, Stalin wanted this so he could present this theatrical image of your culture to other nations as part of the great brotherhood of nations of the USSR.... Who was it who said in their review "No Folk ever danced like this!"? Was it Kisselgoff talking about John Martin's review?

There was talk about how in one region the dances for men were all done in duple meter while the dances for women were all in triple meter, and how the instrucments the music was performed on could not/would not be tuned to western standards... and how this complicated staging things by classically trained musicians... (I wonder how this would parallel Bartok's work)

After the complaints that the dances were inaccurate representations of the culture, it got so that the character dances collected and reconstructed would have to be approved by representatives of the cultures depicted... and then after doing all of that for a ballet, some committee might then decide to complete change the scenario on you immediately after the premiere...

It was, however, intended for export rather than for the regions it was derived from...

a lot of creativity of hte soviet choreographers must have been exhausted trying to keep up with the censors's demands to change scenes and drop sections of the choreography...

Several people mentioned wondering what these creative individuals might have presented us with had they had Balanchine's freedom, instead of struggling to produce under soviet censorship, at time afraid not just for their careers but for their lives if they made the "wrong" aesthetic choice...

The first Azerbaijani ballerina's father threatened to kill her if she continued her dance studies. In the end, they had to marry her to the company's artistic director to give the appearance of propriety! Was it in Azerbaijani that women watched the first performances of the dance company from behind fabric with holes in it?

There was mention of the parallels between Stalin & Peter the Great's importation/imposition of western culture to the caucuses... something about the czar's balls being a way to force the women to socialize in the western norm (I'm guessing this was something like...who could deny the czar's command to appear at a ball?)

Someone in the audience asked how patronage defined the direction the new soviet ballet went... and one answer (have I got this wrong?) was that Stalin liked certain Georgian club dancers and so that decided a particular line of ballets.

There were such serious constraints on what could be presented on the "Academic stage" (I assume this meant the Bolshoi stage?) that these character dance companies provided a lot of freedom for experimentation choreographically.

The women dancing in many of the character dances presented in the muslim regions were not of that ethnic group but rather frequently jewish or western... not sure exactly what was said here, but I'd be interested to hear more.

The talk about the Dekades (sp?) the 10 day festivals... and how the companies would be met a the train station by a marching band and children bearing flowers (this reminds of RAtmansky's setting for Bright Stream). and how there would be an awards session and everyone would be given a Medal ... followed by "however..." and a perhaps Simon-Cowell-like commentary would be given about where there was room for improvement...

Oil Production was the theme of one ballet...

There was mention that of a certain generation of soviet citizens, those who grew up with the early Dekadas, about how much they enjoyed them. But by the childhood of Discussant Irina Klyagin of the Harvard archive collection, these had been perhaps replaced with the International Congresses and the folk presentations seemed dull and the young people rather dreaded them. (I really may be mis-presenting her comments... please correct, Natalia, if you remember more clearly).

There seemed to be a lot of effort to refer to the October Revolution as the Coup d'Etat/October Revolution... this must be the current approve consideration of the event?


Please forgive my errors, I am not an academic and it has been decades since I needed to take responsible notes on a lecture.

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Amy, I didn't take nearly as many notes as you so impressively did but, rather, the main points and little gems that I did not want to forget. On the Golden Age pas de cinq recon, I believe that Jacobsen and Kirov staff in 1960 who remembered the 1930 original staged it for the cameras. Ulanova danced the lone female in 1930 but by 1960 was in Moscow. You are correct on what Irina said about the Dekadas; the last region-specific one was held in 1960. Thereafter, the USSR held multiple-territorial jamboree- like events thst bored young people because the presentations were all so similar, following the stylized Moiseev formula.

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Here are my nuggets about today's two sessions, All About Lifar in the morn and 'Other Émigrés' in the afternoon.

Morning: The Problematic Career of Serge Lifar

Patrizia Beroli of Rome presented a good overview of Lifar's self-confident personality by summarizing the various books on ballet history and theory that he supposedly authored...then told us about his ghost writer Modest Gofman, a friend from the Diaghilev days who desperately needed cash and agreed to pen the books. Lifar was a great collector of books and memorabilia almost to the point of hoarding, much of this inherited from Diaghilev. Gofman also helped SL maintain the collection and 'ghost curated ' two major exhibits in 1930s Paris (honoring anniversaries related to Pushkin and Diaghilev).

Mark Franko relayed an exhaustive list of actions taken (or not) by SL that can serve as exhibits that SL was a wholehearted Nazi collaborator. For example, he met with Goebels on 1940...but, as others later countered, wouldn't 't anyone in his position done so to save the POB? Franko seemed very irked that SL got off with only a one-year suspension after the war.

Sanja Andus L'hotellier offered two oral histories of former POB danseuses who passionately backed-up Lifar as having done the right thing during the war. However, the Archives Int'le de la Danse - an organization of dance intellectuals founded in 1931 by Rolf de Mare - slighted Lifar on one occasion by not inviting him to serve as juror in their annual creative competitions...some took his reactions to that long-ago event to mean that he had it in for Jews. I paraphrase but this was the gist.

Edward Kadinec told the trajectory of eleven precious letters from Pushkin to his love & future wife, Natalia....Diaghilev purchased them shortly before his death, Lifar inherited them. Russia tried to repatriate the letters but SL did not want to sell them. After his death in 1986, his heir finally sold them to Russia and they are now in the Pushkin Museum in StP.

Noted political historian Robert Paxton summed the session and moderated the heated discussions among panelists, as I mentioned earlier.

Afternoon: Emigre Bodies

Marion Kant focused her 'Russian Ballet in Berlin after 1917' talk on the noted performer, choreographer and pedagogue Tatyana Gsovsky, about whom we seem to know much less than her husband Viktor, creator of the celebrated Grand Pas Classique. She did a lot but forbad filming of her work, even in the 50s/60s. Kant also touched on the big debate of moderns - who ruled dance in Germany before the Russians invaded with classical ballet after 1917. As the Gsovkys used to say, "Expressionism is laziness."

Daria Khitrova have a fascinating talk on Chaplin's and Eisenstein 's meetings with (in Chaplin's case) or musings on imaginings of Nijinsky...as Eisenstein never met or saw Nikinsky...but saw Lifar's Faun. Interestingly, it appears that Chaplin originally wrote the scenario for the film Limelight with his character Charlot being an ex-ballet dancer rather than a comic...all inspired by Nijinsky.

Elizabeth Kendall's exploration of Balanchine in the early 30s focused on COTILLON for de Basil's B-R de MC, with a creative team of young people, including the three Baby Ballerinas. Tellingly, company secretary Kochno is quote as saying that GB was "colorless" as a person but his great skills were the ability to create dances quickly AND to put dancers at ease. Also interesting is Kendall's research into GB's bout with tuberculosis and his one- year stay at a Swiss sanatorium in the Alps, overlooking Mont Blanc. Also little-researched heretofore is GB's time in Copenhagen...where he was even called upon to dance the Poet in Sylphides when a dancer was indisposed. All of this and more is promised in Kendall 'a next major tome!

Lynn Garafola offered a tantalizing peek into her current research on Nijinska, outlining her post-Diagjhilev work as both performer and choreographer. It is fascinating how this plucky woman cobbled together a career from disparate assignments around the globe, to be able to keep a roof over her head and feed her family! Did you know that for the last couple of years of performing she specialized in ten-travesty roles, such as Hamlet?

Tatyana Smoliarova led another summing-up session and moderated a lively Q&A session...including the delightful contribution of Allegra Kent (on Nijinska as tough ballet teacher), as noted above.

What an amazing event! Thanks to the wonderful Harriman Institute at Columbia U for having made this possible.

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PC was thrown out the door today. All opinions were voiced in the room then during lunch/breaks. Nothing resolved!

One panelist was ready to electrocute Lifar posthumously. Another wondering why Suite en Blanc still performed today.,."to think that it premiered in the year when the order came to deport French Jews!" Then Anna Kisselgoff rings out, "But he showed me the letter that saved Chagall! " Someone else: "He carried in his pocket a Thank You letter from Jean Babilee's Jewish father, thanking Lifar got taking measures to save his son." To which an anti-Lifar scholar claimed that Lifar carried many fake letters, ready to pull out to defend himself. :)

This was a general gist and not exact words but you get picture. At least everyone was basically civil, if passionate. To me, healthy discussion.

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re: publishing the event's proceedings, in her wrap up, w/ Morrison, Garafola noted that some of the papers/presentations would probably be published on the web, presumably on the Harriman site, w/ the possibility of some of the illustrations being posted as well, as long as these had no copyright difficulties. no date or deadlines were noted.

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re: publishing the event's proceedings, in her wrap up, w/ Morrison, Garafola noted that some of the papers/presentations would probably be published on the web, presumably on the Harriman site, w/ the possibility of some of the illustrations being posted as well, as long as these had not copyright difficulties. no date or deadlines were noted.

Your lips to the gods' ears.

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You're welcome. I, too, am looking forward to at least *some* of the papers being published or presented online, as rg mentioned. Alas, some of the most interesting 'nuggets' came out during the wrap-ups and Q&A session for each panel. It's so interesting how some speakers livened up during Q&A; many - not all - drily read their presentations from notecards. Take away the notes and the motors rev up!

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Thanks again, Amy and Natalia, especially for those points about Sokolow's "choice" of modern dance in pre-ballet America ;) and the review of the folk dance discussion.

The latter reminds me of Tim Scholl's article in Ballet Review a few years back about elements of the Georgian khorumi for male folk dancers in Balanchine's Serenade...and my seeing an archival photo of Serenade costumes at another point that suggested that the women were Amazons. I wonder how many other passages of folk dance performed by women in Balanchine's works would be freighted with a different meaning for us if we knew that they would originally have been danced by men.

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Natalia, i think you misheard the role Balanchine danced in Copenhagen during Kendall's talk: i do believe it was the so-called 'poet' in LES SYLPHIDES and not James in LA SYLPHIDE that GB danced on short notice; this was during the time that Balanchine was staging Fokine's ballets for the Royal Danish Ballet. Your mishearing was hardly an isolated occurrence during the symposium, esp. as many speakers spoke so softly, or away from the microphone, or both...

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