This summer, the San Francisco Ballet Trainees became part of a unique project to bring to life the forgotten dances of the legendary Soviet choreographer, Leonid Yakobson. Yakobson, a choreographer for the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets from the 1930s until his death in 1971, championed risky modernist work, including Rodin–a suite of seven pas de deux inspired by Auguste Rodin’s sculptures of love.
San Francisco Ballet became the first American company to perform Yakobson’s work when Yakobson’s widow Irina, who taught at SF Ballet for many years in the ’80s and ’90s, staged five of them on the Company in 1989.
Reaching across generations this summer, SF Ballet School Trainee Program Assistant (and former Principal Dancer) Wendy Van Dyck, who was part of the original Rodin cast, relearned two of the pas de deux at a re-staging conducted by Boston Ballet.
When Wendy returned to San Francisco, she set The Eternal Spring and The Kiss, the first two portraits of innocent and beginning love, on the Trainees. On October 16, two of the Trainees–Natasha Sheehan and Davide Occhipinti–will perform them on the “Fridays at Noon” series at the 92nd Street Y in New York, as part of a lecture/demonstration tribute to Yakobson that I will be leading.
Janice Ross is a Stanford professor and author of a new biography of Yakobson, Like A Bomb Going Off: Ballet As Resistance in Soviet Russia, published by Yale University Press this year.
This project is made possible thanks to Catherine Ryan Slavonia and Mark Slavonia for their generous and visionary support.