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“The ballet world in search of a major choreographer need search no more. He is Boris Eifman…”
Anna Kisselgoff, „The New York Times“
Boris Eifman – Artistic Director of St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet, People’s Artist of Russia, the Laureate of the State Prize of the Russian Federation, the laureate of the Golden Mask and the Golden Soffit awards, the holder of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 4th, 3rd and 2nd class.
Boris Eifman, the founder and creator of his own theater, his own style, and his own ballet universe, who is called “one of the leading choreographers in the world” and an “amazing magician of the theater”, says about the ballet, “For me, ballet is more than a profession. It is a means of existence, my mission on this earth. Using its resources, I am compelled to convey what is given to me from on high. Most likely, I would simply suffocate on my emotions if I didn’t have the possibility of expressing them through art. For me, choreography is art that is deeply religious, in the broadest sense of the word.”Loe edasi
Eifman brilliantly combined cutting-edge achievements in the world of ballet with what he learned in the academic school of classical Russian choreography, to which he traces his roots. “What I do can be called the dance of emotions, free dance, a new language, in which classical ballet, modern dance, ecstatic impulses and many other things are interwoven…,” he said at the time. His dancers, who had an exclusively academic grounding, had to acquire a new vocabulary of body movement. It is a completely different kind of choreography, whose fundamental principle came into being as the troupe was formed by Eifman.
As an artist whose natural inclination is toward the theater, he is interested in choreographing not only variations of movement but also transparent internal actions as well as one or another overriding idea connected with a performance. “I create ballets of a different kind, where self-expression becomes the subject and in which there is drama, philosophy, characters and an idea. And I am sure that this is the ballet of the future… Believe me, many of my young colleagues will follow the road that I have taken. This road leads eventually to man.”
This assertion is in tune with the ideas of the French reformer Jean-Georges Noverre, who saw man as the main subject and interest of art, and who endeavored to transform ballet into a phenomenon that would have power over people’s hearts and would be capable of addressing the soul. As it was for Noverre, who contended that “the stage is a canvas on which the ballet master imprints his own ideas”, for Eifman, ballet is a means of contemplation, or, as he puts it, an “opportunity, through movement, not only to express some sort of form and line, but to convey a flood of emotions, energy, ideas…”
A distinct feature of Eifman’s theatrе, its trademark, is that almost all of his performances have a plot and, often, a literary source. This corresponds fully to his artistic credo: “I am not saying that I don’t concern myself with the choreographic text itself and its level, as well as the degree of imagination or the perfected form… But if I need a literary base, it means that I am looking for an opportunity to plunge into some sort of realm, one that is familiar to me and to my audience, and, in the familiar, I try to discover and reveal the unexplored…”
It is this penetration into the realm of the unexplored – in the choreography and in the sphere of ideas – that is arguably the hallmark of Boris Eifman. When he turns to works that are familiar even to unsophisticated members of the audience, or to the stories of life of Moliere, Paul I (the Emperor of Russia), Tchaikovsky or Rodin, it would be hard to expect any new revelations in them. But in the well-known novels and plays, in the lines of verse that we know by heart, Eifman sees nuances that no one else has noticed, he finds that which is capable of astonishing, he detects new meanings.
The performances of Boris Eifman may not be the “pure dance” that adherents of plotless choreography talk about. At the same time, his style has nothing in common with that of the “ballet dramas” of the socialist realist era, in which the pantomime was at times too literal an illustration of the word and the plot predominated over the dancing. A true reading of literature always goes beyond the words. And it is there, in a different dimension of the text, somewhere between the lines and the letters, that Eifman finds the silent movement of ideas characteristic of ballet. The choreographer externalizes what is at the heart of a literary text or of an artist’s life history and turns it into visual metaphors of movement that can be compared to a figurative cipher of dreams, in which hazy fantasies and impulses take on visual forms.
When Eifman turns to the works of great writers or to the lives of geniuses and translates them into the language of ballet, this is immersion, through the physical, in the psychic, through the body, in the soul, through words, in ideas. His unique lexicon and conceptual, authorial interpretations are a breakthrough into that fantastic dimension where it is not the story that comes to life but the boundlessness of inner worlds.
Boris Eifman’s name is usually linked to the most innovative artistic experiments and interpretations or stage renditions of classical works of literature. The choreographer constantly revitalizes and enriches the form and content of contemporary ballet.
„Onegin“ - is a dance version of Eugene Onegin novel in verse by Alexander Pushkin. Here Eifman combines classics and modernity. Eugene Onegin heroes impersonalize men and women of today in a symbolic way: they are those who have gone through a drastic social change, who are living in the time of crisis, at the turn of the century. An unexpected combination of classical music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and of rock music by Alexander Sitkovetsky is something that surprisingly helps the viewers get inspired by the original creative concept of Boris Eifman.
Onegin ballet is a unique opportunity to see the paradigmatic, textbook literary plot through the eyes of the modern man.
Boris Eifman about the ballet: “When I rely on great literature in my ballets, I do it in an attempt to express, by means of choreographic art, the emotional impact and amazement I get from learning the wisdom and creative power of our great predecessors. Word – is an instrument both for creation and destruction, it can crush as easily as breathe new life.
The plastic language of body movement, as the oldest in history way of self expression, carries with it universal values, spiritual and emotional, that anyone can understand. Thus, using a literary source I thereby set myself a specific task: to reveal what may be relevant and exciting for my contemporaries, and with it something that can be conveyed solely by the great art of dance.
Then, the question is: why did I choose Alexander Pushkin’s versified novel Eugene Onegin for my ballet? What is of concern to me in it? Literary critics and scholars have called this book ‘Encyclopedia of Russian Life’. Pushkin, by extraordinarily vivid and scrupulously exact mastery of word coupled with a great talent for psychological insight, depicted the Russian national character of his time, created the poetical image of the Russian soul – mysterious, unpredictable and unparalleled in its sensuousness.
With all my art I have been endeavoring to discover the secrets of the Russian soul. My choreographic treatment of Eugene Onegin is only another attempt at expressing in dance the mystery of human spirit.
What I’ve done in the ballet was to place Pushkin’s characters in the modern times, in new circumstances and conditions that may seem to be more dramatic, sometimes even extreme, when the old world is collapsing and the life powerfully imposes new rules. I needed this sort of experiment in order to answer a question that really concerns me: what is the Russian soul today? Has it retained its singularity, its mystery, its appeal of past times? How the main characters of the novel would order their own destinies today? What in the ‘Encyclopedia of Russian Life’ was only ‘period problems’ and what has remained and shall remain as the sign of destiny for many generations of my compatriots to come?
The art of choreography does not provide us with solutions to the burning issues of the life and development of society. Yet, handling them in a creative way, analyzing them and offering an individual assessment of them, we thereby partake in the process of its improvement and betterment.”
“Perhaps the best way to think about choreographer Boris Eifman is to dub him ‘the Jerome Robbins of Russian ballet’, for he is a master of theater as much as a maker of dances – a man with a seamless feel for the way gesture, music and stage design can coalesce in the art of storytelling and character development.”
Hedy Weiss, „Chicago Suntimes“
“Boris Eifman's fearless, fascinating approach to ballet is wildly idiosyncratic, sometimes embarrassingly juvenile, but often entertaining and rarely uninteresting. <…> But you never wait long for Eifman to come up with something startling.”
Sid Smith, „The Chicago Tribune“
“His attempts to take a venerated Russian story and place it in the context of the New Russia may be audacious, but they also reveal not just an undeniably appealing streak of wild romanticism, but a keenly observed parable about the self-questioning doubt that dogs the modern Russian character – and the destructive yearning for the unattainable hearts' desire that dogs us all.”
Mary Ellen Hunt, „San Francisco Chronicle“
“His intelligence shows in ‘Onegin’ in several ways, not least in that he has preserved the combination of drama, romance, and satire found in Pushkin's novel. Many in the audience won't recognize this debt, but no one will be unaware of the rich, heady experience that results. As for talent, Eifman is unfailingly choreographically inventive (his lifts alone, so difficult to do well, are dazzling), he's superb at conveying all forms of erotic experience, his movement is always expressive and extraordinarily fluid, and his work is always visually arresting.”
Alan Helms, Boston, „Ballet Magazine“
“Emotional intensity, sinuous technique, and a fierce sensuality characterize the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg's ‘Onegin’, which received its Southern California Premiere at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night. With his edgy reimagining of Alexander Pushkin's 19th century Russian literary classic Eugene Onegin, Artistic Director Boris Eifman has created a thrill-a-minute, white-water rafting ride of a ballet that propels the audience into a maelstrom of conflicting passions set in a post-Soviet Russia of the early 1990s.” “Dark and gritty, in Eifman's hands Pushkin's tale of an awkward young girl's infatuation, rejection and ultimate revenge is infused with a primal sensibility played out in arched heads and backs, elongated extensions, and interlocking bodies that both caress and punish, control and cajole with raw energy. It's a world where every movement is imbued with foreboding and the characters seem always on the verge of emotional ruin.” “With Eifman's dancers it is almost impossible to separate emotion and technique; every writhing movement, every leap and lift seems a fusion of soul and body. To watch an Eifman ballet is a visceral experience and never more so than with ‘Onegin’.”
Pam Diamond,“ O.C.Register“
“It is all quite absorbing, entertaining and beautiful to look at. And, as well as the principals and corps de ballet were received by an enthusiastic Berkeley audience, it was not surprising that the loudest cheers of all were for the choreographer. In the world of ballet, Boris Eifman is a power to be reckoned with.”
Suzanne Weiss, „Сulturevulture“
“The ballet has an imaginative energy, an engagement with its source that feels more Russian, more vibrant than the familiar John Cranko version. It is carried primarily through Eifman's reimagining of period and place.”
Judith Mackrell, „The Guardian“
“Eifman's choreography is exactly what we have come to expect from him, veering between thumping ensembles and troubled, acrobatic danced monologues in which every ounce of emotion is paraded in pained limbs.”
Debra Craine, „The Times“
“Eifman has tremendous vision in the use of his superb corps de ballet, employing style and precision in creating fluid, kaleidoscopic patterns to which the dancers respond with impressive timing throughout. His work for the soloists is relentlessly physical, employing a never-ending stream of lifts, including here a duet for Onegin and Lensky that could also come straight from Las Vegas with its flowing hand-to-hand acrobatics.”
Graham Watts, „Londondance“
“No chance for boredom during this production! The scenes were short and episodic and there was little time to think of the whys and what fors of the actions. It certainly kept one’s attention. Eifman’s choreography was breathtakingly fast, filled with acrobatic, gymnastic movement.”
Margaret Willis, „Bachtrack“
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