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American–Soviet Cultural Diplomacy

The Bolshoi Ballet's American Premiere

Cadra Peterson McDaniel

American–Soviet Cultural Diplomacy: The Bolshoi Ballet’s American Premiere is the first full-length examination of a Soviet cultural diplomatic effort. Following the signing of an American-Soviet cultural exchange agreement in the late 1950s, Soviet officials resolved to utilize the Bolshoi Ballet’s planned 1959 American tour to awe audiences with Soviet choreographers’ great accomplishments and Soviet performers’ superb abilities. Relying on extensive research, Cadra Peterson McDaniel examines whether the objectives behind Soviet cultural exchange and the specific aims of the Bolshoi Ballet’s 1959 American tour provided evidence of a thaw in American-Soviet relations. Interwoven throughout this study is an examination of the Soviets’ competing efforts to create ballets encapsulating Communist ideas while simultaneously reinterpreting pre-revolutionary ballets so that these works were ideologically acceptable.

McDaniel investigates the rationale behind the creation of the Bolshoi’s repertoire and the Soviet leadership’s objectives and interpretation of the tour’s success as well as American response to the tour. The repertoire included the four ballets,
Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Giselle, and The Stone Flower, and two Highlights Programs, which included excerpts from various pre- and post-revolutionary ballets, operas, and dance suites. How the Americans and the Soviets understood the Bolshoi’s success provides insight into how each side conceptualized the role of the arts in society and in political transformation.

American–Soviet Cultural Diplomacy: The Bolshoi Ballet’s American Premiere demonstrates the ballet’s role in Soviet foreign policy, a shift to "artful warfare," and thus emphasizes the significance of studying cultural exchange as a key aspect of Soviet foreign policy and analyzes the continued importance of the arts in twenty-first century Russian politics.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 294Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-9930-5 • Hardback • November 2014 • $105.00 • (£70.00)
978-0-7391-9932-9 • Paperback • November 2016 • $49.99 • (£32.95)
978-0-7391-9931-2 • eBook • November 2014 • $49.99 • (£32.95)
Cadra Peterson McDaniel is assistant professor at Texas A&M University–Central Texas.
Transliteration and Translation Notes
List of Photographs and Tables
Chapter 1: Ideological Goodwill:
American and Soviet Cultural Exchange Plans
Chapter 2: Restricted Repertoire:
Planning for the Bolshoi’s 1959 Tour
Chapter 3: The Class Struggle and Shakespeare:
The Soviets’ Interpretation of
Romeo and Juliet
Chapter 4: Imperial Communism:
The Soviets’ Reinterpretation of P. I. Tchaikovsky’s
Swan Lake
Chapter 5: Preserving and Elevating the Classics:
Chapter 6: State Approved Innovations:
The Stone Flower
Chapter 7: Soviet Highlights:
The Very Eclectic Soviet Artistic Scene
Chapter 8: Tempered Success:
Ballet's Role in the Cold War
This book is well worth the attention of anyone interested in the Cold War or in the value of cultural exchanges, then, now, and in the future. . . .McDaniel's work will awaken those scholars who concentrate on military and political confrontations, such as those concerning Russian activity in Ukraine, to the importance of the calming and rewarding aspects of cultural interactions.
The Russian Review

Cadra McDaniel’s book, which is based on serious and solid research using both archival and published documents engaging contemporary Soviet and American periodicals and occasionally oral history, is a welcome addition to the growing literature about cultural production/consumption, cultural politics, and ideology in the Soviet Union, especially during post-Stalin socialism. It is devoted to a very important topic— the role of cultural diplomacy in both the relaxation of international tensions and the intensification of ideological confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States during the rule of Nikita Khrushchev. Its main focus is on the history of the successful Bolshoi Ballet's tour in the U.S. in 1959, which is presented as a major chapter in Soviet cultural diplomacy and an episode of the Soviet ‘artful warfare’ against the Americans.
Sergei Zhuk, Ball State University