Patrizia Veroli

Classical dance and Mediterranean imaginaries: Jia Ruskaja in Fascist Italy

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Cultural Studies
  • Classics

Abstract Russian dancer and film actress Jia Ruskaja (Evgeniya Borisenko, 1902–70) forged a rapidly rising career in Italy as a dancer, teacher and company director during the thirties. The author of La danza come un modo di essere (1927) was a female education reformer, whose Milan dance schools were subsidized by the Fascist Regime. In 1940, she was entrusted with the directorship of the newly founded Royal School for Classical Dance. Though inspired by Isadora Duncan, in the early thirties, Ruskaja added ballet to her modern dance since she considered it crucial for the sound training of the body. According to her, the century-old codified system of ballet, once mingled with the ability to make artfully crafted movements inspired by classical imagery (‘plastique’) and rhythmic gymnastics, could transform into a new and organic physical practice, able to create a new beginning in dance. Was this so? Could her modernized ballet, imbued with the Mediterranean myth that inspired a number of artists in the twenties and thirties, convey such a modernist futural thrust, or was it rather held captive by centuries-old balletic values and culture?

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