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date: 26 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Chance. Improvisation. Uncertainty. During the Cold War, these words came to be freighted with a complex set of aesthetic meanings in the Soviet Union and the United States. These nuances in the usage of these terms, the kind of arts practice they made possible, and the ways they were linked to each nation’s political frames hold important insights into the politicizing of aesthetic practices and the aestheticizing of social revolutions. This essay considers the affordances of constraints when paired with the selective use of improvisation in the work of Russian choreographer Leonid Yakobson. A close reading of the work of Yakobson, the leading modernist at the Kirov Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet throughout the years of Stalin’s rule and into the first decades of the Cold War, is a relevant case study. It reveals how, clandestinely in his rehearsal rooms, a degree of improvisation and chance carried unique aesthetic force and political risk.

Keywords: Leonid Yakobson, chance, improvisation, Soviet ballet, Kirov Ballet, Cold War, Choreographic Miniatures

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