The shock and awe of Russian lives through Eifman’s eyes

The Eifman Ballet is to visit Australia for the first time in August and September, bringing two works, Tchaikovsky (1993) and Anna Karenina (2005).

The St Petersburg-based company, founded in 1977 by Boris Eifman, has just completed a season at London’s Coliseum. This followed a New York season in March of Rodin, the company’s latest work.

With its expressionist style, melodramatic gestures, and acrobatic lifts, Eifman’s choreography brings back memories of Maurice Bejart’s spectacles of 1960s-1980s.

Eifman aims for shock and awe, and if big, bold, brash and black-and-white characterisation appeal, then the shows are for you.

His ballets, often based on Russian artists, playwrights, dancers, composers or literary figures, include The Seagull, Onegin, and Red Giselle, the last telling the story of the descent into madness of the ballerina Olga Spessivtseva.

Reviewing a performance of Tchaikovsky in New York in 1999, Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times wrote: “Mr Eifman wears his heart on his sleeve with a heedlessness that one seldom sees in the theatre anymore. He and his performers have the simplicity and unabashed intensity of emotion displayed by Soviet dancers of an earlier time”.

Eifman, 65, who was born in Siberia, describes himself in florid prose such as:

‘My aspiration is the theatre of open emotional experiences. By creating the mystery in which the characters live and act according to my rules, I create my world.

“It is like my cardiogram, the rhythm of my heart beat, with its explosions, shocks, culminations, raises and collapses”.

Rather like his choreography.

The company will perform at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney, from August 15 t0 25 and the Regent Theatre, Melbourne, August 28 to September 9

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Anna Karenina, Eifman Ballet, photo © Khana Kudryashova

Anna Karenina, Eifman Ballet, photo © Hiroyuki Ito