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Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg: The Seagull

by Susan Weinrebe
March 24, 2007
The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
50 E. Congress Parkway
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 922-2110
Presented by:
Ardani Artists Management, Inc.
(Ardani Website)

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
The Seagull
Ballet Version by Boris Eifman
Based on Anton Chekhov's Play

Music by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Alexander Skriabin
At
The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
(Auditorium Website)

50 E. Congress Parkway
Chicago, Illinois 60605
312.922.2110

Artistic Director: Boris Eifman
Director of the Ballet: Gennady Albert
Coaches & Balletmasters: Olga Kalmykova, Valentina Morozova, Tatiana Sevostianova, Natalia Sazonova, Igor Kuzmin, Oleg Paradnik
Production and Stage Manager: Alexey Donde
Deputy Director: Vladmir Bondarenko
Assistant to Artistic Director: Olga Mikhaylovtseva
Assistant to Executive Director: Polina Mikhaylova
Head of Foreign Affairs Department: Victoria Bykova
Financial Department: Elena Oleynik, Tatiana Alexandrova, Irina Enikeeva
Production Staff: Vadim Shemarov, Alexey Petrov
Head Electrician: Yuri Timofeev
Electricians: Vladmir Vasilevski, Dmitri Russkih
Sound Engineers: Leonid Eremin, Elena Kurinova, Marina Mikhailukova
Carpenters: Yuri Eliseenkov, Sergey Kulikov, Alexander Yaroslavtsev, Sergey Grigoriev
Set Design: Zinovy Margolin
Lighting Design: Boris Eifman, Gleb Filshtinsky
Costumes: Natalia Zuzkevich, Olga Kulizhnova, Daria Prokhorova
Consultants: Slyde (Sylvain Le Hesran), Maxim Shakhov
Wardrobe: Elvira Sheikina, Tatian Smirnova, Elena Niyazova
Make-up Artist: Natalia Karavaeva
Masseur, Therapist: Alexander Meshcherin
Soloists: Maria Abashova, Elena Kuzmina, Natalia Povorozniuk, Anastassia Sitnikova, Nina Zmievets, Yuri Ananyan, Dmitri Fisher, Oleg Gabyshev, Andrey Kasyanenko, Ivan Kozlov, Oleg Markov, Yuri Smekalov
Corps de Ballet: Marina Burtseva, Diana Danchenko, Sofia Elistratova, Anastassia Filipcheva, Elena Gorshunova, Olga Grigorieva, Liana Madysheva, Marianna Marina, Natalia Pozdniakova, Victoria Silantieva, Natalia Smirnova, Agata Smorodina, Oxana Tverdokhlebova, Valentia Vassilieva, Valeriya Volobueva, Evgenia Zodbaeva, Ekaterina Zhigalova, Sergei Barabonov, Vasil Dautov, Kirill Efremov, Pavel Gorbachev, Mikhail Ivanokov, Andrei Ivanov, Stanislav Kultin, Anton Labunskas, Alexander Melkaev, Batyr Niyazov, Ilia Osipov, Igor Polyakov, Roman Solovyov, Sergei Volobuev, Sergei Zimin, Maxim Zubarev

Cast:
Arkadina: Natalia Povoroznium
Treplev: Oleg Gabyshev
Zarechnaya: Anastassia Sitnikova
Trigorin: Oleg Markov
Like the "broken-winged bird" in Langston Hughes poem, Dreams, the latest Eifman ballet to visit Chicago, The Seagull, demonstrates what happens when dreams are shattered.

Playing to a packed house of enthusiastic fans, the audience seemed eager for what is quintessential Boris Eifman: dancers and interpretations of literature unlike any other.

Beginning with the look of his dancers, they are the tallest of the tall and the thinnest of the thin. If Giacometti had created a template, by which the soloists would have been measured, these performers would be straight out of the mold. Their legs and line extend up, out, and beyond beyond. Yet, they possess a strength that belies their apparent fragility and are unquestionably supple as they follow choreography that requires elasticity besides classic ballet technique.

To begin, an apparently rigid box, centered on stage, contains a male dancer, bent into a pretzel shape in order to fit within its confines. As he tests the enclosure defining bars, he discovers that he can force the sides out of alignment and breaks free of the box. Just the first of many metaphors, our neophyte Treplev, Oleg Gabyshev, hatches so to speak, as he emerges into a world that will test his powers of resiliency.

However, the world is not particularly receptive to his fresh ideas, and, rather than setting the clash of viewpoints and struggle for power in the country house of Chekov's story, Eifman has transposed the conflict to a more convenient locale, a ballet studio. There, the established master, Oleg Markov as Trigorin, exudes haughty mono-maniacal control over his dancers. Mr. Markov's stature particularly assists his interpretation of a self-aggrandizing taskmaster, since he can easily look down his nose at everyone else. Oleg Gabyshev, whose boyishly innocent face with its hopeful expression is no match for the razor cheekbones and haughty manner of the master, seems foiled at every alternative turnout of his foot.

Contained within the struggle between the established and the new is also a battle of the ballerinas. The beautiful young dancer who must pay the devil his due if she is to succeed, is a counterpart to the idealism of Treplov. Anastassia Sitnikova dances a tormented soul. The protégé of Trigorin, her ragdoll makeup and lack of spiritual center leave her open to his manipulation as do the hopeful dance dialectics of Treplev. Lifted and held as though weightless despite her long-limbed frame and stressed ACL, her fluidity contrasts with the tormented gull-wing poses she effects later as she is "sacrificed" to shooters who label their prey in a paint ball scene.

Natalia Povorozniuk, the established ballerina, sees the writing on the wall: out with the old, in with the new, or maybe it's the other way around, depending on which of the males is trying to get the women in their own camp. Of the traditional classic school, she rebels against the domination of the maestro as he and his new muse decamp. But no one can take her beautiful technique and grace from her.

Several dreamlike sequences, capturing the anguish of the conflicted characters, follow after each other. Dancers emerge from what looks like a lycra blanc mange, dancers make love in a way that expresses that strongest of desires – power, and dancers get it on with some hip hop. In the end, Treplev, countered at every point, returns to his box and draws the misshapen sides back into form around him.

One must admire and even love Eifman for the niche he has carved out. That is, interpreting great stories through dance. There is, after all, a tradition in ballet for this already. But there is no one else like Eifman when it comes to combining the traditional while pushing the parameters of classic ballet. Making rapid changes in lifts, holds, turns, positions familiar on the ice when skaters execute them, his dancers move so quickly and effortlessly one can barely appreciate the difficulty of what they routinely do.

In the end, there is only one answer to the question: Did you like The Seagull? That is: There is no one like Eifman.

To get into the proper Russian mood before the performance, Russian Tea Time was the perfect restaurant at which to have a reservation. Stepping into the plush setting of the quietly lit room, huge arrangements of flowers were set off by an old-world atmosphere of red and gold décor and Russian music in the background.

Starting with, what else, vodka, we relished our meal of good dark rye and little butter rosettes, mushroom caps, assorted salads, dumplings, chicken croquettes, and Moldavian meatballs. For dessert, a birthday surprise Napoleon with a candle, served by our most excellent waitperson, Olga. How was our meal? Khorosho poshla! It went down well.
Boris Eifman's 'The Seagull'

Boris Eifman's "The Seagull"

Photo © & courtesy of Sergei Danilian


Boris Eifman's 'The Seagull'

Boris Eifman's "The Seagull"

Photo © & courtesy of Sergei Danilian


Barry & Susan At Russian Tea Time

Barry & Susan At Russian Tea Time

Photo © & courtesy of Susan Weinrebe


Olga At Russian Tea Time

Olga At Russian Tea Time

Photo © & courtesy of Susan Weinrebe

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