Leonid Jacobson


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(Yakobson) (b St Petersburg, 15 Jan. 1904; d Moscow, 17 Oct. 1975)

Soviet dancer, choreographer, and ballet master. He began his studies at the late age of 16, taking evening classes at the Leningrad Ballet School. His rapid progress, however, admitted him to day classes and he graduated in 1926 into GATOB (later the Kirov). He specialized in character roles, although he also began to choreograph early on in his career. His first notable achievement was his collaboration with Kaplan, Vainonen, and Tchesnakov in the first production of Shostakovich's The Golden Age in 1930 but his more daring innovations of style and approach ran foul of the Soviet authorities, and he was once banned from working for six years. He continued to dance with the Kirov until 1970, although for periods he worked elsewhere, for example at the Bolshoi Ballet (1933 to 1942) as dancer and choreographer, and as a choreographer with the Isadora Duncan studio in Moscow in 1948. His major ballets included Shurale (mus. Yarullin, Kirov, 1950), Solveig (mus. Grieg, Maly Theatre, 1952), and Spartacus (Kirov, 1956), which was the first setting of Khatchaturian's score. He created several ballets for the Kirov in the 1960s, including The Bedbug (1962), for which he cast a young Natalia Makarova in the lead, New Love (1963), and Land of Miracles (1967). His unusually acrobatic dance skills also made him a popular concert artist, and he choreographed more than 100 concert pieces. It was Jacobson who made Vestris, the solo Baryshnikov danced when he won the International Ballet Competition in Moscow in 1969. One of Jacobson's miniatures was Rodin, with music by Debussy and inspired by Rodin sculptures at the Hermitage. In 1990 it entered the repertoire of San Francisco Ballet. He formed his own company, Choreographic Miniatures, in St Petersburg in 1970, although it appeared abroad as the Jacobson Ballet. After his death it became the State Ballet of Leningrad.

Subjects: Dance.

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