Today, we’re taking a look at a quirky ballet with a dark, interesting history. Created in 1935, Shostakovich’s farcical ballet The Bright Stream had what he thought was a winning combination; a bucolic Communist setting populated with funny characters, including dancing farmers, a cycling dog, and men in comical drag. But though the composer created the piece to delight Stalin and the other Soviet leaders, it instead pissed them right off.
The ballet was banned, the careers of composer Shostakovich and choreographer Lopukhov were damaged, and their co-librettist Piotrovsky was send to the gulag, never to be heard from again.
“Boy, when you die at the Palace, you really die at the Palace.”– Mel Brooks as Comicus in History of the World Part I
In 2006, the Bolshoi Ballet decided to bring back The Bright Stream, and this time, it received warm accolades. To my knowledge, no one was sent to the gulag, so that’s good.
If you haven’t the patience for the whole ballet, my favorite bit is here. I cannot stop watching the male ‘ballerina’ move. He’s astoundingly graceful!