Princeton University Presents Recreation of Lost Prokofiev Ballet | Playbill

Classic Arts News Princeton University Presents Recreation of Lost Prokofiev Ballet
A ballet set to a score by Prokofiev and last performed in 1931 will be revived on April 7 at Princeton University.
Le Pas d'acier (The Steel Step) was never filmed or documented.

Simon Morrison, a musicologist at the university, was one of the forces behind the work's revival. "This is essentially a world premiere," he said, "because the ballet was never performed the way Prokofiev intended it."

Le Pas d'acier was intended to reflect and celebrate Soviet industrialization in the manner of constructivist art. By the time the work premiered in 1927, performed by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, it had been scaled down by budget constraints and a change in choreographers. The production ended up mocking, rather than praising, its subject.

"It ended up as a satire of Soviet society," Morrison said.

The work has been recreated, with the help of theater historian Lesley-Anne Sayers, from stage directions on the original score, along with drawings, photos, diagrams, and other archival materials Sayers found in Paris, London, Moscow, and New York, and in Armenia.

The new full-scale production uses 30 dancers from an advanced dance class taught by Millicent Hodson, who recreated Pas d'acier's choreography, and Rebecca Lanzier. Music will be provided by the University Orchestra, with 60 musicians. Michael Pratt, the orchestra's director, will conduct.

The influence of Russian constructivism and its synthesis of dance, music, and design is evident in Prokoviev's instructions on the score. One of them requires the orchestra's 12 cellists to move their bows in a manner that, according to Morrison, "they look like robots, echoing the ballet's industrial theme."

The ballet's set is a replica of the original planned by Georgi Yakoulov, with stylized industrial elements and an eight-foot train.

Le Pas d'acier, which will be performed with three short pieces by university composers and choreographers, will run through April 9 at the university's McCarter Theatre.

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