Le Pas d'Acier

Model reconstruction of Yakoulov's original designs by Lesley-Anne Sayers.

Georgii Yakoulov

Right: Choreographic sketch by Millicent Hodson.

On April 7 and 9, 2005, the Program in Theater and Dance and Music Department of Princeton University will collaborate on a performance of the industrial-age ballet Le Pas d’Acier (The Steel Step). This ballet, conceived in 1925, staged by the Ballets Russes in Paris and London from 1927-29 and by the League of Composers in Philadelphia and New York City in 1931, constituted the summit of Modernist experimentation in Constructivist syntheses of dance, décor, and music. Though Le Pas d’Acier was not notated or captured on film, research supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Board of the United Kingdom has led to the uncovering of a trove of archival materials in London, Paris, New York, Moscow, and elsewhere about the original conception and production of the ballet. These materials include draft scenarios, outlines of the intended approach to the dance, décor, and music interaction, diagrams and sketches of the choreography, costume drawings and photographs. Though largely unpublished, the materials have all been made available to the project participants, and facilitate the performance of a ballet that, above and beyond its popular success, sparked heated debate at the time of its premiere (nascent Cold War politics fueled debate about its ideological content in Europe and North America).
   The performance will include, for the first time, choreographic, visual, and musical details that, to the dismay of the set designer Georgiy Yakulov and composer Sergey Prokofiev, were omitted from the original production. The student-mounted staging at the Berlind Theater at Princeton University will be realized by the theater historian Lesley-Anne Sayers, the choreographer Millicent Hodson, the scenic consultant Kenneth Archer, and the musicologist Simon Morrison. It will be accompanied with two new works by Princeton composers Paul Lansky and Barbara White, and one work by Princeton choreographer Ze’eva Cohen. The event is being generously financed by a variety of departments and offices at Princeton University, most notably the Council for the Humanities."

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