Eifman Ballet
DIANA VISHNEVA: ON THE EDGE
LES BALLET DE MONTE-CARLO
Kings of the Dance Tickets
POLINA SEMIONOVA & FRIENDS
SOLO FOR TWO: NATALIA OSIPOVA & IVAN VASILIEV
MIKHAILOVSKY BALLET
MARIINSKY BALLET

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg

Pas de Trois: Boiling Down Tolstoy's Tale for Ballet
Author: Roslyn Sulcas
Date: April 30, 2007
Publisher: The New York Times

Boris Eifman, like Maurice BĂ©jart before him, is both adored and dismissed. Adored by those who thrill to his lavish, dramatic spectacles, filled to the brim with emotion, and gilded with beautiful costumes and sets. Dismissed by others as the creator of kitsch, choreographically thin ballets that trade in melodrama and fake spiritual epiphany.
All of these summations can be true, and in "Anna Karenina," performed by the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg at City Center on Friday, Mr. Eifman is on the better side of this fence. His reading of Tolstoy's great novel is simplistic, or perhaps just simplified: Anna's duty as a wife and mother is pitted against her grand passion for Vronsky, and the ballet is essentially a long pas de trois that sets the heroine between husband and lover. There is no political or social context. There is no Oblonsky, no Dolly, no Levin and very little Kitty. (She appears briefly at the beginning.) And perhaps Mr. Eifman is wise to dispense with so much that would be impossible to translate in dance terms.
But this pared-down narrative doesn't leave much material for a full-length ballet or character development, and Mr. Eifman alternately shows us Anna's indecision about leaving her husband and son, scenes of grand amour with Vronsky and lavish ensemble pieces. When despair finally drives Anna to throw herself beneath the inevitable train, it's not terribly clear why.
That said, there is a lot to enjoy. Anna is danced by the beautiful Maria Abashova, who retains an elegance and a mystery throughout her perpetual onstage torment and acrobatic bedroom scenes. As Karenin and Vronsky, Oleg Markov and Yuri Smekalov, respectively, offer sincere, well-danced readings of their equally tortured characters. The set (by Zinovy Margolin) of balconies and columns in bronze and the costumes (by Slava Okunev) are sumptuous. And the Eifman dancers give their all in massed ensemble scenes that include a gilded masked ball infused with hysteria and an impressive evocation of the fatal train.
Mr. Eifman doesn't really choreograph to music, here a patchwork of Tchaikovsky extracts and some electronic additions. He uses it to ramp up the emotional quotient, and his movement style, which mixes ballet with acrobatic, sensational partnering and modern dance elements, has the same objective. If Friday's cheering audience was any indication, Mr. Eifman's blend of showmanship and audacity does the trick.