Friday, April 27, 2012: With Tongue in Cheek

Opus Osm

The anti-Socialist-Realist ballet The Bright Stream promises lots of fun.

Bolshoi Ballet, Dancing with Tongue in Cheek*

* With your tongue in your cheek: English idiom, to say something as a joke but with a serious face

The Bright Stream (Světlý Pramen), at the cinema on Sunday, is a satirical ballet sure to provoke a stream of laughter. But what happened to its creators is no laughing matter.

The ballet about Moscow ballet dancers visiting a rural Russian collective during the wheat harvest premiered in Leningrad in 1935. The music is by Shostakovich; the lead male role is The Ballet Dancer, dressed as a sylph and dancing en pointe.

The first audience loved its folk tunes blooming into sweeping orchestra music, its dancers on a bicycle, its sudden bursts of charleston right in the middle of the dance; you can just picture why.

However, the later Moscow audience wasn’t as thrilled. An anonymous editorial in Pravda descried the piece’s offenses against Soviet Realism. The composer’s music was banned; the original librettist was banished; and the choreographer was black-balled from future serious, accepted work.

Happily, times have changed, but the humor has not. You can see a rare performance of The Bright Stream on Sun, Apr 29 at the Světozor, in a live broadcast beamed, ironically, from the Bolshoi in Moscow. It’s the latest in the Aero cinema company’s series of big-screen ballet performances.

Opus OsmThe production’s Russian choreographer, Alexei Ratmansky, trained at the Bolshoi Ballet School, danced with major international ballet companies, and has created award-winning ballets for the Dutch National Ballet, Kirov Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and the State Ballet of Georgia.

In 2003 he was invited to mount The Bright Stream in Moscow, the city that originally led to its downfall. This and his other works led not to his banishment, but to his collection of prestigious international dance and choreography awards.

The Bright Stream promises to be memorably entertaining, whether you can appreciate the political irony from personal experience or only from history.

–And then, there’s that dancing … — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Bolshoi Ballet, Damir Yusupov

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