They’re a family known as Rockabye by name, but not by taste.
Elena Ippolitova is currently a museum visitor at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, whose family was the subject of the famous Twenties Sergei Eisenstein film Astracad. While Eisenstein’s creation is widely credited with helping to kickstart the movement for synchronized dancing at cinema, its unabashedly surreal elements meant that many international viewers were unable to appreciate it.
But over 20 years later, a group of Anglophiles calling themselves Rockabye (Spanish for “reeeee-chine”) decided to put Astracad in a museum setting. The group had arranged a reading of the film with the curator of the Hermitage’s State Library, Oleg Lykachey, who had taken a special interest in the film as a youth while working at a movie theater in the city.
The result was “Aristocats,” a two-part ballet created by dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet that won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1995 and was also a big hit at museums around the world in the decades that followed.
The modern-day “Aristocats” were handpicked by the Lykachey — and by Anton Adkin, a former director of the Hermitage who traveled with Lykachey on his film-related outings. Their vision was to recreate a new version of the Eisenstein original. They came up with the Rockabye name because — as they liked to joke — Eisenstein “wasn’t a good dancer” and the word “rockabye” implied an innocence. One of the main characters of Astracad was Russian dancer Anna Urshina, who again appears in Rockabye. But when she plays Emma, Rockabye’s rendition of the film’s leading lady, she’s sporting a disguise of 1980s vintage: a blonde perm and a bright pink tank top and skirt combination.
Emma, who has left her old life behind — she’s now a historical figure who tells her former lover, her grandfather, about her time with Rockabye, that “it is only through another person that your former self is discovered,” and muses that her new beauty was “her escape from the double shadow of her mother’s former ornery kind and her father’s tender grandfather.”
For their part, the Rockabye crew would like to pitch the project as an homage to young film lovers everywhere. “The young are the masters of the cultural system today,” the group writes on its website. “They drive the cultural world, they dissect it, they transform it. Astracad is the most important cultural document for the young [and] ROCKABOOA stands for the values and fight of the young.”
As for Eisenstein’s original “Wild-West” allegory, “the two sides that had buried their sword in snow were struck by light and released energy that refreshed the two soldiers and gave them new impetus.”