Anna Karenina at Joffrey

Joffrey Ballet put on a new “Anna Karenina” production with an all-new score by Ilya Demutsky, which is stunning. I spend almost an hour searching for the best photos, and they can only remotely reveal what a stunning production it is. There is very little of Tolstoy left. For example, the best part is the scene of Anna and Vronsky’s intimacy, which is 100% against Tolstoy’s beliefs. If you remember this part of the novel, he does not describe the scene, he just said that “it happened.” And then, he describes all the horrible feelings of “murder” and how Anna is disgusted with what just happened. This goes with Tolstoy’s idea that sex is sinful and “unnatural” and ruins the love, not compliments it. All the nonsense that people with a strong desire often say since they feel guilty about how they feel.

Anyway, is erotic scene is so beautiful and so powerful!

The Joffrey Ballet notified the patrons that there will be a protest before the show (the protesters were out there for all the performances so far). However, the email said that Joffrey respects the right to free speech and thereby won’t prevent people from protesting.

However, before the show started, the was an announcement of solidarity of Joffrey Ballet with Ukraine in her fight against Russia and support for the people of Ukraine. The sides of the stage went yellow and blue, and the orchestra played Myroslav Skoryk’s “Melody.”

Since I was asked multiple times, I want to repeat it again: I completely understand the feelings of protesters and those whom they represent. I also completely agree that these times are not the times to call for any sort of “balanced approach” because nothing can “balance” the deaths and suffering. Here my message is loud and clear.

However, I wanted to finish this post with the massive quote from the “Tribune” article about these protests:

“… The protesters’ main complaint appeared to be rooted in the idea that Joffrey imported Russian artists and ideologies and is therefore promoting Russian imperialism. While Tolstoy and some of the collaborators are Russian, “Anna Karenina” is an American production, no more Russian than “Swan Lake” or ballet as a whole.

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America Illinois Division, which took part in the protest, has stated publicly that it “vehemently condemns the immoral use of cultural events to promote the image of Russia as a state of great culture.” Messages from the Tribune to the organization were not immediately returned.

Tolstoy, who penned “Anna Karenina” in 1878, was a known anti-capitalist, anti-communist pacifist. An omnipresent theme of “Anna Karenina” alludes to Tolstoy’s view that the best things come to those who wait.

“Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.” That Tolstoy quote was part of a recorded preshow announcement made just before the curtain rose Wednesday, along with a statement of solidarity to the Ukrainian people as the Russian invasion rounds the bend on a bloody year of war. Maestro Scott Speck led the Lyric Opera Orchestra in Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk’s “Melody” ahead of Russian composer Ilya Demutsky’s glorious and appropriately schmaltzy score to “Anna Karenina.”

A nice gesture, to be sure, though what feels like beauty, kindness and catharsis to some may be deeply painful to others.

Of course, Tolstoy also wrote this: “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”

Ballet is not (and never has been) a benign, apolitical endeavor. Its very origin story is rooted in propagandist power grabs. The story of “Anna Karenina” is not universal. It is a product of a particular time and place. It does not move the needle of modern discourse; it does not claim to. “

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