Anne Searcy: Ballet in the Cold War

MON, DEC 7, 2020

In 1959, the Bolshoi Ballet arrived in New York for its first ever performances in the United States. The tour was part of the Soviet-American cultural exchange, arranged by the governments of the US and USSR as part of their Cold War strategies. Ballet In The Cold War explores the first tours of the exchange.

American fans lined up overnight to buy tickets to the Bolshoi, and Soviet audiences packed massive theaters to see American companies. But the tours also began a series of deep misunderstandings. American and Soviet audiences did not view ballet in the same way. Each group experienced the other’s ballet through the lens of their own aesthetics. Americans loved Soviet dancers but believed that Soviet ballets were old-fashioned and vulgar. Soviet audiences and critics likewise appreciated American technique and innovation but saw American choreography as empty and dry.

Drawing on both Russian- and English-language archival sources, this book demonstrates that the separation between Soviet and American ballet lies less in how the ballets look and sound, and more in the ways that Soviet and American viewers were trained to see and hear. It suggests new ways to understand both Cold War cultural diplomacy and twentieth-century ballet.

Image: Book Cover

+ BIO: Anne Searcy

Anne Searcy is an Assistant Professor of Music History at the University of Washington, where she researches the intersections of music, politics, and dance. Dr. Searcy’s first book, Ballet in the Cold War: A Soviet-American Exchange, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in fall 2020. The book analyzes the American and Soviet cultural diplomacy programs, focusing on tours by the Bolshoi Ballet in the United States and by American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet in the Soviet Union. Dr. Searcy has also published articles on the ballet Spartacus and the musical Hamilton. She holds a Ph.D. in music from Harvard University and a B.A. in history and music from Swarthmore College. Before coming to the University of Washington, she taught at the University of Miami.

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