Saturday, May 03, 2014

Cygnets in Odessa

Ukrainian ballerinas perform the Dance of the Cygnets from Swan Lake in front of Odessa's military museum and some tanks. The clip was apparently broadcast on Wednesday and thereafter went up online. Many thanks to Gramilano for drawing attention to it.

According to The Moscow Times:
Ballerinas in the Ukrainian city of Odessa have performed a dance from the Swan Lake ballet for Russian President Vladimir Putin — but the gesture was far from salutary.
The dance, performed to music by composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky outside Odessa's military history museum, was a nod to a Soviet-era tradition, the performance's organizer said, noting that state-run television traditionally aired classical music during periods of great change in the Soviet Union.
"For millions of Soviet people, televised performance of the world-renowned ballet 'Swan Lake' always signaled a change in the country's leadership — either the death of the Secretary-General, or his ouster as a result of a coup," regional lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko said when introducingthe performance in front of Ukrainian television cameras. 
"Because Vladimir Putin has made a fatal mistake by unleashing aggression against Ukraine, today Odessa, as a cultural capital, performs for him this portentous composition," he said in footage that aired on Ukrainian television and was posted online Wednesday. 
This morning there comes news that more than 30 people were killed and 200 injured in Odessa yesterday when a trade union building was set on fire during clashes between pro- and anti-Russian groups. Our hearts go out to everyone there, together with a plea for peace.

These Cygnets also remind us of the way that classical music/ballet is often used as a kind of official safety curtain when seismic events are taking place behind it; it is a trick that is by no means exclusive to the old USSR. Depending on who is doing it, and how, and where, and when, it can also be distraction, a whitewash, or - very occasionally - part of a larger-scale brainwash.

You don't even have to look at world politics to see this in action. I once worked for a company that had an open-plan office in Camden Town; and if you heard Bach violin concertos drifting peacefully across the space on a Friday afternoon, it was a sure-as-hell sign that in the MD's corner box someone was being made redundant.