The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg presents Rodin
Author: Stephanie Sirabian
Date: March 9, 2012
How do you explain genius? The Eifman Ballet uses dance to bring this concept to life through the story of the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin.
Artistic Director and choreographer Boris Eifman explains his inspiration in a note about the production: “To turn a moment frozen in stone into an irrepressible sensuous stream of body movements.” But Eifman offers more than a visual representation of the master at work. Rodin offers a glimpse into the sculptor’s mind throughout the creative process, and the tragic toll it took on those around him.
Key aspects of Rodin’s life are portrayed, but the most important relationship in the ballet is that of the artist to his work. Dancing the title role, Oleg Gabyshev took on the challenge of presenting a man whose care for those around him pales in comparison to that for his art. Lyubov Andreyeva plays Camille Claudet, the woman who was Rodin’s muse, student and lover, and who went insane after their affair. The audience’s first impression of the pair begins with Camille twisted in a closed ball on the floor, eyes wide and peering through her fingers, while Rodin reflects her sadness upstage. Their movements don’t appear to stem from traditional ballet vocabulary but instead use the shapes and angles typical of Rodin’s sculpture.
Image credit: Gene Schiavone
A scene in Rodin’s studio shows the start of the ill-fated romance. He bends her body like clay, focusing on the shapes he’s creating rather than the woman before him. Camille is vulnerable and so pliable that Rodin’s control appears possessive, too intimate. At one point she stands on his thighs, his hands wrapping around her legs to counterbalance their torsos pulling apart. Instead of supporting her arm or waist in arabesque, he turns her around by the calf. But while there is something uncomfortable and off-balance about the relationship, their connection is undeniable, and they move gracefully together. Debussy’s Clair de Lune also helps impart a sense of calm. But the ballet’s opening scene, Camille unstable and in an asylum, is an unforgettable reminder that at any moment one of these two people could explode.
Rodin’s relationship with Rose, Yulia Manjeles, has a different feel. Her affection for him is obvious as Manjeles leaps and lunges for his attention. But if he pays her any attention, he fixates on the curve of her neck or ankle, studying the body as a work of art. Rose indulges him but cannot collaborate, and the extra spark of creativity that existed between Rodin and Camille eludes Rose’s relationship.
Eifman’s clear point of view throughout the ballet allows him to explore a complex subject without confusing the audience. The story of Rodin, Camille, and Rose’s love triangle is simple, leaving room for psychological analysis that rarely comes across in dance. In doing so, Rodin becomes another work of art itself.