Home & + | Search
Featured Categories: Special Focus | Performance Reviews | Previews | DanceSpots | Arts and Education | Press Releases
Join ExploreDance.com's email list | Mission Statement | Copyright notice | The Store | Calendar | User survey | Advertise
Click here to take the ExploreDance.com user survey.
Your anonymous feedback will help us continue to bring you coverage of more dance.
SPOTLIGHT:
PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
ExploreDance.com Kickstarter Campaign

The ExploreDance.com Kickstarter campaign is live! Please consider backing our campaign to help us expand our coverage of dance.
www.kickstarter.com/projects/1306220552/exploredancecom
ExploreDance.com (Magazine)
Web
Other Search Options
Bonnie Rosenstock
Dance Events
Music and Dance Reviews
Performance Programs
Performance Reviews
Ballet
Dance-theater
Modern/Contemporary
New York City Center
USA
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
******* ** **
exploredance.com

Suffering For One's Art: Eifman Ballet's Red Giselle & Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra

by Bonnie Rosenstock
July 7, 2017
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
212.247.0430
No one does pain and suffering better than the Russians. Or ballet. Put them together and you have the two dance-theater productions recently presented by the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, now in its 40th year, at New York City Center from June 2-11. Both works were conceived and choreographed by Boris Eifman, the Company’s founder and artistic director. His revival Red Giselle (originally 1998) about the great ballerina Olga Spessivtseva, and Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra (2016 in its current form) were loosely and dramatically based on their tragic lives.

Spessivtseva (1895-1991), considered one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century, rose to prominence in the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, the city of her birth. Her singular interpretation of “Giselle,” some say, surpassed even Pavlova. The deprivations of the Russian Revolution left her in poor health and she contracted tuberculosis. After she regained her strength, she returned to the Ballet Russes in London, where her “Aurora” in Serge Diaghilev’s “The Sleeping Princess” was a sensation and became her other signature role. In 1924, she left Russia permanently and became the star of the Paris Opera Ballet. With war impending in Europe, she immigrated to the U.S. and eventually became an advisor to Ballet Theatre, now American Ballet Theatre. In 1940, she had a breakdown and was committed to a mental hospital in New Jersey, where she languished, forgotten, for 20 years. Colleagues tracked her down, and she was transferred to the Tolstoy Farm in New York State, where she remained until her death at age 96.

In Red Giselle (June 3), Eifman gives the unnamed “Ballerina” (Maria Abashova) three influential men who represent three phases of her life. There’s the strict, old-school ballet “Teacher” (Oleg Markov), who recognizes her singular talent and pushes her hard toward success. Her lover, an autocratic “Commissar” (Sergey Volobuev), controls her emotionally and physically and symbolizes the cruelty of Communism—soldiers brutalize ballet dancers in a harrowing scene. In Paris, she forms feelings for her “Partner” (Oleg Gabyshev), but it is unrequited because he’s gay. In this production, her breakdown occurs in the prime of her life, as she strives to perfect her Giselle.

The mise en scenes and costumes are visually impressive—displaced Russian refugees in earth tones wearily walking up a ramp to flee; the contrast between the silent, disciplined ballet training in Russia, with its jealousies, and the studio in Paris where the dancers are wearing colorful workout outfits, assume casual stances and display camaraderie; the glorious chandeliered theater as seen from the performers’ point of view onstage looking out at the audience; the Funhouse set of mirrors and white veils at the finale to depict her dissolution into madness.

This two-act overly long production affords the fine corps many opportunities to shine in myriad dance sequences, shifting moods from classical, militant Communist brutality and torture, to lively 1920s jazz riffs. The three male leads are exceptional, especially the charismatic Volobuev, who haunts the “Ballerina” even after she escapes.

Whereas Red Giselle ends with the “Ballerina’s” death, the two-act Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra (June 9) with the terrific Gabyshev in the title role, begins with him on his deathbed (he was 53, but obviously is younger here), tormented by his past and racked with self-doubt, which includes masked demons, witches and other hallucinatory figures. There are also his wonderful triumphs, grand scenes from four of his most renowned compositions: the mouse king battle from “The Nutcracker”; the swans corps de ballet from “Swan Lake”; an enormous sloping table with dice and dancers in complementary costumes from “The Queen of Spades”; and a fine representation of “Eugene Onegin.” The remarkable Volobuev performs principal roles in all four while embodying Tchaikovsky’s alter ego: the mysterious magician Drosselmeyer, the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart who casts a spell on Odette, Herman, the obsessive gambler and murderer and the self-absorbed Onegin, who kills his best friend in a duel.

Volobuev also stands in as the composer’s troubled gay persona, although there is still debate over whether he was comfortable or not with his sexual preferences. (The Soviets tried to suppress this information until recently.) At the age of 37, he married a former music student, Antonina Miliukova. They lived together briefly, after which he had a nervous breakdown, tried to commit suicide and left Russia. In the ballet, there is an unpleasant scene in which Miliukova (the lovely Lyubov Andreyeva) tries to force Tchaikovsky into having sex with her. In Act II, enter Volobuev for a passionate battle (with red lighting) as the three struggle over his sexuality.

Abashova appears as Nadezhda von Meck, the wealthy widow of a railway magnate, who becomes his confidante and patroness for the next 13 years, until 1890, which allowed him to concentrate exclusively on composing. Abashova brings strength and grace to this role.

“Tchaikovsky” is the more successful of the two ballets. First, throughout it has the composer’s gorgeous music and those lavish scenes from his works. The two male leads, the tortured Gabyshev paired with Volobuev are formidable in every sense. Abashova, although gifted, seems a little too languorous to carry the demanding Red Giselle role. Eifman specializes in choreographing literary works or true-life geniuses with broken souls. These two works, like their subjects, are not perfect, but they are perfectly performed and a great contribution to the canon of new classical works.
Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's 'Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra'

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's "Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra"

Photo © & courtesy of Yevgeny Matveyev


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's 'Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra'

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's "Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra"

Photo © & courtesy of Yevgeny Matveyev


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's 'Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra'

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's "Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra"

Photo © & courtesy of Yevgeny Matveyev


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's 'Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra'

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's "Tchaikovsky. Pro et Contra"

Photo © & courtesy of Yevgeny Matveyev


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's 'Red Giselle'

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's "Red Giselle"

Photo © & courtesy of Yevgeny Matveyev


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's 'Red Giselle'

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's "Red Giselle"

Photo © & courtesy of Yevgeny Matveyev


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's 'Red Giselle'

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's "Red Giselle"

Photo © & courtesy of Yevgeny Matveyev


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's 'Red Giselle'

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's "Red Giselle"

Photo © & courtesy of Yevgeny Matveyev


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's 'Red Giselle'

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in Boris Eifman's "Red Giselle"

Photo © & courtesy of Yevgeny Matveyev

ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
* **** ****


ExploreDance.com
ExploreDance.com is sponsored by
******* ******
exploredance.com


home || view our calendar || the store || copyright information || join our mailing list || mission statement
Search for articles by
Performance Reviews, Places to Dance, Fashion, Photography, Auditions, Politics, Health