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The Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian was always hard at work, trying to find a strong way to evoke his country's rich musical heritage. His previous concertos had been well-received, but only in ballet did he find he could use a character to represent a certain musical style, and his celebrated ballet Spartacus in 1941 convinced him to do a similar piece the next year.

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He finally came up with a great backdrop: a collective farm in Southwestern Russia, full of immigrants from both Eastern Europe and Siberia, and everywhere in between. It would be called Gayane, and would tell a love story that broke down class barriers. Each piece would be reflective of a particular area of Russia. The opening movement would of course represent modern and progressive Russia.

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Played presto (obviously!), the lively song became known as the "Sabre Dance." Onstage, the entire farm gathered around for a traveling show of Muscovite performers dancing and juggling - what else? - sabres. The opening routine was very carefully choreographed, and no accidents were ever reported during a performance of the ballet.

(higher up now)
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The ballet was an enormous success. Stalin himself called it the modern Soviet masterpiece, flying in the face of other notable composers such as Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich.

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When the ballet reached foreign borders, it didn't succeed nearly so well - but its opening song did. Co-opted by plate spinners for years to come on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and used to display frenzied and frazzled scenes in television and movies galore (see the Coen Brothers's marvelous The Hudsucker Proxy, or "The Simpsons" episode where Bart uses grandpa's teeth to cling to a spinning ceiling fan for two popular examples.) It has been covered by, among others, Woody Herman, Les Baxter, Dave Edmunds, and Empire Brass.

And now you know ... the rest of the story.

Psst .. if you think you can do a better voice-to-text rendition of this, by all means, msg me.

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