Russian Ballet at the Kennedy Center as a Catalyst for Better Bilateral Relations
The famous Russian Mariinsky Theatre performed Juli-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges’ “La Corsaire” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DCApril 25th, 2019
The relationship between the USA and Russia has been far from serene, however the cultural exchange of the Russian Mariinsky Ballet at the Kennedy Center sheds a warmer light on the seemingly very antagonistic relationship between the two super powers.
The Mariinsky theatre is one of the greatest ballet companies in the world, that has created the music and the choreography of masterpieces like “The Sleeping Beauty”, “The Nutcracker”, and “Swan Lake”. The dancers’ skills and majesty have been praised for more than two and a half centuries worldwide. This year, the company performed a story of bold pirates, passionate maidens shocking betrayal, and a dramatic shipwreck rescue, Le Corsiare. The performance was praised by the Washington Post as “breath taking choreography, virtuosic dancing, and spectacular scenery and costumes.”
This performance has altered the usual media coverage of a worsening relationship between Russia and the United States. The Ambassador of the Russian Federation, His Excellency Anatoly I. Antonov expressed his opinion on a private post-performance reception: “the Russian and American relations are in very bad shape, but it is impossible to undermine the cultural relation between the United States and Russia. You can see from the hospitality of the American people to Russian artists today.”
The Russian ballet is one of the most known cultural heritages. Deciding for this kind of cultural exchange was a medium to ease tensions between the two countries. The Mariinsky Ballet performance was not the first time a great ballet company had performed in the USA, the Bolshoi Ballet did their first performance in 1959 and was at that time considered a phenomenon. This sort of cultural exchange is not one-sided in 1960 the American Ballet also performed in Moscow.
Through these visits and performances, the audience as well as officials and politicians get a chance to recognize the similarities between the two vastly different cultures. It can inspire more effective dialogue based on affinities rather than disparities.
Cultural bonds between two super powers that have difficult relations are of crucial importance. The fact that these exchanges started to develop during the most difficult times and still continue today shows how much impact culture can have on bilateral relations.
Nevertheless, this could not be done without the support from institutions like in this case the Carmel institute that takes care of building lasting connections between the American and Russian youth. Cultural diplomacy in this case exceeded ideology and gave a voice to the people.