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Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg: Anna Karenina

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 25, 2005
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

About the Author:

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg: Anna Karenina

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
(Eifman Ballet/Ardani Artists Website)
Boris Eifman, Artistic Director
Sergei Danilian and
Ardani Artists Management, Producer

At City Center
(City Center Website)

Anna Karenina
Ballet in Two Acts

Boris Eifman, Choreographer and Director

Set by Zinovy Margolin
Costumes by Slava Okunev
Lighting by Gleb Filshtinsky

Cast: Maria Abashova as Anna, Albert Galichanin as Karenin, Yuri Smekalov as Vronsky, Natalia Povorozniuk as Kiti

Music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 24, 2005: Opening Night


Some Eifman Ballet Program Notes:

Boris Eifman, Artistic Director, Choreographer, and Director, has created over 40 ballets. He has won all the highest awards in the arts in Russia and was inducted into France's Order of Arts and Letters. Eifman is known to fuse classic ballet with contemporary choreography and is fascinated with the magic of genius and the realm of the human psyche. Eifman stresses the theatrical impact of his productions, one ruled by emotions.

The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg has been geared for a continuous, creative process. Eifman has produced ballets to rock music, and he has also created ballets about Tchaikovsky and Moliere. He emphasizes psychoanalysis through movement and the energy of mass action scenes. Eifman has also designed ballets around Shakespearean theater, such as "Russian Hamlet" and "The Twelfth Night", plus the one-act Musagète for New York City Ballet. "Who's Who?"was Eifman's last NY production at City Center. (Program Notes).
(See an Exclusive Interview with Boris Eifman). (See Ardani Artists Photos and Press Release of Eifman's Anna Karenina).

Eifman has brilliantly distilled the visceral and psychic emotions of love, rejection, loss, passion, guilt, torment, and self-destruction. Anna Karenina, the novel, the play, the novel as ballet, and the novel as inspiration for contemporary theatre, is a love triangle: wife (Anna), husband (Karenin), and wife's lover (Vronsky). In Eifman's usual grand scale, no emotions minimized onstage, Anna Karenina as ballet is a masterpiece, a creation that magnetizes the audience through its two angst-filled acts.

A family trio, father, mother, son, plus the metaphorical locomotive (according to Eifman, the transient state of life), appear and re-appear painfully, as Anna leads two lives, externally and internally, after her brief meeting with Vronsky grabs her spirit and captures her soul. Albert Galichanin as Karenin (the Eifman Ballet cast switches each performance) is masculinity matured, the cuckolded husband, stoic and psyched, crushed and crumpled. His line of dance is extreme extension, slow walks, grabbing his partner's waist, shoulders, breasts, desire overwhelming, fear of the inevitable loss to his family and to his place in society.

Maria Abashova, as Anna, whether in white, black, or blood red, exudes stage several personas, also in the extreme: dutiful wife, loving mother, rejecting wife, passionate lover, rejecting lover, tormented woman, sometimes stoic, sometimes naked and crazed. Her extra-long, lean limbs and athletic shoulders and back allow her crawling, leaping, sitting, lunging, and en air lifts to personify her deep, dark, dour torment. Yuri Smekalov as Vronsky is youthful, exuberant, aggressive, and daring, sometimes in a dance of the flesh, and sometimes in a duel of the minds, with the object of his occasionally requited desire.

The incredible on-stage special effects and choreography are signature Eifman, but unique to this NY Premiere, including several Russian snowfalls, a palatial two-tiered set, a small locomotive, a larger, well-lit train-track, electrified limbs, a table that serves as a crawl-through to naked, persona changes, and a smoke-filled stage that features Tchaikovsky gone electronic. The corps de ballet at the core of this wild balletic event are a black, leather clad Greek Chorus, an ensemble of masked ball partygoers, the white entrails of Anna's viscera, the grandly attired attendees at a ball, and the townspeople at the fatally projected train station.

Minor characters, such as Kiti (Natalia Povorozniuk, a first-act, minor character here) and Anna's son, plus the various incarnations of the corps, provide a poignant extension to the drama and action of the love triangle, the love duos, and the death solo. Eifman's entire choreographic concept is brilliant. The white/black/red costumes seem to symbolize purity, darkness, and passion, existent in the many layers of the complex self. Eifman climbs within Anna's soul, as Anna climbs within the small table and exits to the electronic pulsations of the visually naked corps (white unitards) and her visually naked soul. Life has black and white and red textures, and Eifman creates them all, with deep perception, deep introspection, and deep psychosexual imagery.

In fact, the cold, angular, stark bedroom scenes of Anna with Karenin, contrasted with the hot, undulating, erotic bedroom scenes of Anna with Vronsky, are some of the most powerfully psychological dance moments onstage in NY in quite some time. Eifman as choreographer has directed his dancers to internalize the feelings of repressed desire and repressed anger, as well as the feelings of willful desire and unrestrained pleasure. In the genre of ballet, Eifman's dancers are not bound to traditional ballet figures, but rather to untraditional ballet innovations. The masked ball scene (the masks of societal pretensions), the titanic and fragmented Tchaikovsky score (stitched together from popular and lesser known concertos and symphonies), the electronic acoustical infusions, and the electrifying finale are all quintessentially Boris Eifman, and thankfully Eifman creates these engaging experiences for a memorable and inspirational night at the ballet.

The mostly Russian, Opening Night audience should substantially grow into a mainstream, New York ballet audience, as Eifman's Anna Karenina, like all Eifman ballets, is a powerful, potent, and poignant aesthetic experience. Eifman's Anna Karenina will be in performance at New York's City Center through May 29, 2005. (See Eifman 2005 Touring Schedule).


Albert Galichanin as Karenin; Maria Abashova as Anna
Photo courtesy of Valentin Baranovsky



Yuri Smekalov as Vronsky; Maria Abashova as Anna
Photo courtesy of Valentin Baranovsky



Alexey Turko as Vronsky; Vera Arbuzova as Anna
Photo courtesy of Valentin Baranovsky

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