This introductory chapter deals with the society that shaped Leonid Yakobson as a rebellious artist during the days of Stalin. Yakobson was born in Saint Petersburg in 1904. A Jew, Yakobson and his family were allowed to live in the city, as a special privilege, though with restrictions. He studied dance from 1921 and experimented with ballet innovation and modernization within a culture that opposed it. The Bolshoi stage was known as the public face of Communist utopia. It was also a place where the stage and politics overlapped. In this light, Yakobson embodied the image of the displaced and culturally exiled Soviet Jew. Yakobson used dance as the ultimate stealth art form—his ballets appeared innocent but had an undercurrent of Jewish subject matter and messages. This book shows how this art form battled against the censorship and suppression of the Soviet authorities, yet was not cause enough to result in its foremost practitioner—Yakobson—to be exiled or imprisoned.
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