Aurora’s Shot: The Battle over Sleeping Beauty

Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room (1219 International Affairs Building)

Please join us for a talk with Maria Ratanova, art historian, dance historian, literary scholar, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Harriman Institute. Professor Lynn Garafola will introduce the talk.

In her talk Maria Ratanova will trace the fate and transformations of the legendary Russian 19th century ballet Sleeping Beauty, and discuss its controversial reconstruction in the St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre in 1999.

After the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the new leadership of the Mariinsky (formerly Kirov) Ballet began radically reevaluating its brand in accordance with the new cultural policy of reviving the Imperial past and restoring severed international connections. The resulting unprecedented curatorial project of the 1990s, which opened the post-Soviet company to Western modernisms, can be compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall. As part of this project, the Mariinsky also undertook ambitious reconstructions of its main legacy, the 19th century ballets of the legendary master Marius Petipa. Sleeping Beauty, carefully restored with the help of the Stepanov dance notations from the Harvard Theatre Collection, was the first experimental revival in the series and soon gave rise to a worldwide trend. However, the project did not come together without struggle. Conservative ballet circles vehemently opposed it, defending the modified Soviet versions of the classical ballets. A heated battle in the media over the reconstruction ensued, and the debate is still ongoing. Ratanova will discuss the successes and challenges of the now famous reconstruction, and the new possibilities it opened to the international ballet world.

Maria Ratanova is an art historian, dance historian, and literary scholar. She holds a Ph.D. in Slavic Literature from Harvard University, and is currently a Postdoctoral scholar at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University. She specializes in the history of Russian avant-garde art and twentieth-century dance, and teaches the course “Soviet Photomontage of the 1920s and 1930s” in the Department of Art History at Columbia.

Ratanova wrote dance criticism for the newspaper Kommersant and other publications in the 2000s. She is the author of the Introduction to the Russian edition of Bronislava Nijinska’s Early Memoirs (“Bronislava Nijinska: In the Shadow of Her Brother’s Legend,” 1999), the first research publication on Nijinska in Russia. Ratanova’s research on dance has also appeared in anthologies such as Modernism in Kyiv: Jubilant Experimentation (Toronto, 2010), Avant-Garde and Theater of the 1910s-1920s (Moscow, 2008), and others. She is currently working on a book about Gustav Klucis and Soviet Constructivist photomontage.