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Maya Plisetskaya, one of the world's foremost dancers, rose to become a prima ballerina of Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet after an early life filled with tragedy and loss. In this spirited memoir, Plisetskaya reflects on her personal and professional odyssey, presenting a unique view of the life of a Soviet artist during the troubled period from the late 1930s to the 1990s. Plisetskaya recounts the execution of her father in the Great Terror and her mother's exile to the Gulag. She describes her admission to the Bolshoi in 1943, the roles she performed there, and the endless petty harassments she endured, from both envious colleagues and Party officials. Refused permission for six years to tour with the company, Plisetskaya eventually performed all over the world, working with such noted choreographers as Roland Petit and Maurice Béjart. She recounts the tumultuous events she lived through and the fascinating people she met-among them the legendary ballet teacher Agrippina Vaganova, George Balanchine, Frank Sinatra, Rudolf Nureyev, and Dmitri Shostakovich. And she provides fascinating details about testy cocktail-party encounters with Khrushchev, tours abroad when her meager per diem allowance brought her close to starvation, and KGB plots to capitalize on her friendship with Robert Kennedy. Gifted, courageous, and brutally honest, Plisetskaya brilliantly illuminates the world of Soviet ballet during an era that encompasses both repression and cultural détente. Still prima ballerina assoluta with the Bolshoi Ballet, Maya Plisetskaya also travels around the world performing and lecturing. At the Bolshoi's gala celebrating her 75th birthday, President Vladimir Putin presented her with Russia's highest civilian honor, the medal for service to the Russian state, second degree. Tim Scholl is professor of Russian language and literature at Oberlin College. Antonina W. Bouis is the prize-winning translator of more than fifty books, including fiction, nonfiction, and memoirs by such figures as Andrei Sakharov, Elena Bonner, and Dmitri Shostakovich.
In 1999 the Maryinsky (formerly Kirov) Ballet and Theater in St. Petersburg re-created its 1890 production of Sleeping Beauty. The revival showed the classic work in its original sets and costumes and restored pantomime and choreography that had been eliminated over the past century. Nevertheless, the work proved unexpectedly controversial, with many Russian dance professionals and historians denouncing it. In order to understand how a historically informed performance could be ridiculed by those responsible for writing the history of Russian and Soviet ballet, Tim Scholl discusses the tradition, ideology, and popular legend that have shaped the development of Sleeping Beauty. " "Drawing on a wide range of sources, most of which have never appeared in English, Scholl describes the artistic controversies surrounding the early production and the debates it fostered about the future of dance during the formative years of the Soviet Union. He shows that the 1999 revival brought to the surface a collision of imperial, Soviet, and official, and popular histories that mirrored many of the rifts felt more generally in post-Soviet society. A fascinating slice of cultural history, the book will appeal not only to dance historians but also to those interested in the arts and cultural policies of the Soviet and post-Soviet periods.