Post-Soviet Primas: Challenging Archive and Repertoire


Ballet, Choreography, Technique, Archive, Repertoire

How to Cite

Nikulina, A. (2019). Post-Soviet Primas: Challenging Archive and Repertoire. PARtake: The Journal of Performance As Research, 2(2).


In ballet’s dual conceptual tracts of archive and repertoire, choreography and dance technique became largely associated with the field of repertoire, due to their potential to resist the structures of the archive. In my work, I set out to examine contemporary Russian ballet narratives of leading prima ballerinas, who consistently associate choreography and dance technique with the archive rather than the repertoire. Defining themselves as “interpreters” of the “texts,” rather than dancers, and rendering re-staged classical ballets as “editions,” rather than independent choreographies, primas challenge ballet power structures and assign a higher value to dancers’ work. As ballet remains a state-sponsored and state-administered sphere in contemporary Russia, it is important to analyze how and why leading artists distance themselves from historical ballets and traditions of “classical dance,” while largely acting as its cultural agents. I rely on the notions of archive and repertoire, as theorized by Diana Taylor and Rebecca Schneider, and dance technique, as defined by Susan Foster, Judith Hamera, Randy Martin, and Claudia Brazzale. I argue that Russian primas frame ballet as an archival art, through the use of the notions of “text” or “edition” in relation to choreography and “school” or “classicism” in relation to dance technique