The Project

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In April 2005 Princeton University will stage Prokofiev’s infamous ‘Soviet’ ballet, Le Pas d’Acier, originally conceived in 1925. This project is directed by Professor Simon Morrison, a musicologist specializing in Russian music and ballet. The ballet will be developed from the research of ballet/theatre historian Lesley-Anne Sayers, and staged by internationally renowned reconstructors Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer. Hodson will develop new, source based choreography to take the ballet back to its original conception and its roots in the Soviet theatre, dance and revolutionary context of the 1920s.This project is funded by Princeton University, a leading center of music and research, and will be developed with students from their advanced dance program.  

Model reconstruction of Yakoulov’s original designs, by Lesley-Anne Sayers. CLICK ON THIS picture for MORE.

Model reconstruction of Yakoulov’s original designs, by Lesley-Anne Sayers

Lesley-Anne Sayers and Millicent Hodson working on the ballet

Lesley-Anne Sayers and Millicent Hodson

This production will use an unpublished  scenario co-written by Soviet designer Georgi Yakoulov and Serge Prokofiev in 1925.  The original ideas for the staging and narrative content were adapted for the ballet’s premiere by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1927.  This project aims to present the ballet as collaboratively conceived in 1925. It is therefore the first ever staging of the music alongside the action it was written for.

Le Pas d’Acier is a series of scenes in two acts. The first part is set in Russia during the period of famine, the second in a factory. Through the interaction of music, movement and design, the ballet explores the theme of social transition and transformation, revolutionary ideals of empowerment through industrialisation 'construction' and the Machine.

   Initial studies of characters, by Millicent Hodson     Initial studies of characters, by Millicent Hodson    Initial studies of characters, by Millicent Hodson

“Machines are worshipped because they are beautiful, and valued because they confer power; they are hated because they are hideous, and loathed because they impose slavery”.  

Bertrand Russell, 1928.

Le Pas d’Acier’s production history relates to this key debate of the modern era. Born out of a desire to explore the ideal of the machine for a revolutionary future based on industrialization and the nobility of labour, it was produced in a Western viewing context where for many the capitalist factory, as well as Bolshevik ideals,  represented exploitation and de-humanised, soul-less toil.

This new staging returns to the original collaboration between composer and designer in 1925, to reconsider Prokofiev's 'factory' in interaction with Yakoulov’s ‘factory’, and to explore the work's innovative model of ballet as well as the social ideals it embodies and represents.

Ze'eva Cohen, director of Princeton's Advanced Dance Program, and Millicent Hodson studying archive costumes for the ballet

Ze'eva Cohen, director of Princeton's Advanced Dance Program, and Millicent Hodson


See: Lesley-Anne Sayers and Simon Morrison: Prokofiev’s Le Pas d’Acier: How the Steel was Tempered, Soviet Music and Society Under Lenin and Stalin: The Baton and the Sickle, Neil Edmunds (ed)., Routledge-Curzon, UK, 2004, p.81-104.

See: Lesley-Anne Sayers: Re-Discovering Diaghilev’s ‘Pas d’Acier’, Dance Research, The Journal of the Society for Dance Research, UK, vol. 18, no. 2, Winter 2000, p.163-185.


The driving force behind the ballet’s original conception was its designer, Georgi Yakoulov, a leading member of the Soviet avant garde. 
Prior to Prokofiev's first return visit to Russia in 1927, and his eventual permanent return in 1936, Yakoulov  brought a re-connection to artistic developments in Moscow, to the ideals of ‘construction’ and the machine, and to the Russian approaches to staging associated with Alexander Tairov and Vsvold Meyerhold.

Le Pas d’Acier was Diaghilev’s most radical interaction with Constructivism, and is the only known ballet to have combined a Soviet revolutionary theme with a Constructivist staging.  But the evidence suggests that the original staging could not resolve the politically charged dilemmas of the subject matter, and suffered from mixed sources of inspiration and  realisation  (Soviet theatre / Ballets Russes). This project aims  to re-connect the ballet to its original sources in movement-based Soviet revolutionary theatre and the influence of film in the 1920s.



Staging History.

1927: Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Paris and London.Choreography: Leonid Massine. Design: Georgi Yakoulov

1931: The League of Composers, New York. Choreography: Edwin Strawbridge. Design: Lee Simonson

1948: Serge Lifar, Paris. Choreography: Serge Lifar. Design: Fernand Leger

Initial studies of characters, by Millicent Hodson


Georgi Yakoulov
Pas D'Acier Set Model

The Serge Prokofiev Foundation

Drawings by Millicent Hodson ©2004. Text by Lesley-Anne Sayers©. Website Design: IDM Ltd.