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Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg - Who's Who, a Ballet in Two Acts

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 13, 2003
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
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About the Author:

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg - Who's Who, a Ballet in Two Acts

Boris Eifman, Artistic Director
Sergei Danilian and
Ardani Artists Management, Producer

Press and Public Relations, Ellen Jacobs, Assoc.

In Performances at City Center
(Website)

Boris Eifman, Choreographer and Director

Slava Okunev, Set and Costume Designer

Cast: Yuri Smekalov, as Alex; Constantine Matulevsky as Max; Natalia Povorozniuk, as Lynn and Showgirl; Alexander Melkaev as Johnny and Musician; Oleg Markov as Bill and Swan; Andrei Belov as Tap Dancer; Valentina Vassilieva as Clown; Igor Polyakov and Sergei Barabanov as Gangsters.

Music by: Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Scott Joplin, Billy Strayhorn, Sy Oliver, Louis Prima, Joseph Garland, Vincent Yomans, Samuel Barber, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Oliver Truan, and Kol Simcha.

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 13, 2003

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". "Who's Who" is Eifman's latest production.

"Who's Who" is the experience of Alex and Max, heroic dancers from the Russian Imperial Theater, who flee the Russian Revolution in 1917 and migrate to America. When gangsters pursue them, they dress as female dancers in a nightclub. Max meets comic and violent action, while Alex reveals his male identity to Lynn, his adored lead dancer. Alex then develops a dance troupe with both classical and jazz motifs, illustrating the power of the American dream.

An Eifman Ballet has something for everyone. This was more than a ballet, more than a contemporary dance. Who's Who is a spectacle, and my contacts in the world of Russian dance have informed me that I should immediately travel the country in quest of each and every Eifman production! I often end a review with kudos for the Artistic Director. This time, I will begin the review with kudos for Boris Eifman.

Who's Who is sumptuously presented, a visual and auditory extravaganza, with a set of metal and glass that extends and uses the entire height and width of the stage. Smoke pours forth, and immigrants, en masse, with suitcases and long coats dance to traditional Kletzmer sounds by Kol Simcha. This is New York in 1917, with a Brooklyn Flea Market, a tap dance table, Nightclubs, Orthodox wedding scenes, Showgirls, Drag Ballet, a Circus with clowns, a classical ballet en pointe, exquisite costumes and dreamlike, surreal sets. The occasional, inherent violence onstage is sanitized and tolerable, as the music swells and morphs from Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings to Duke Ellington's Fillie Trillie. At times, we hear Louis Prima's Sing, Sing, Sing, and the percussion drives the dynamic and wild choreography, and, at other times, we hear a portion of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, as well as his Piano Concerto No. 2, and this music waxes romantic, for breathtakingly exquisite duets, the first between Alex and Max, and the second between Alex and Lynn.

For visual technicality, the tap dance by Lynn, on a table and chair, with no musical accompaniment, as well as Alex' and Max' solos and partnered passages, one could not expect more perfection or virtuosity. The quick costume changes, often onstage, with brilliant colors or white/silver/black creations, against a constantly stark, jet backdrop, were amazing to behold. I recall the females quickly zipping into brownish dresses, as if we were in a backstage dressing room at a dazzling Nightclub. I also recall Alex morphing from Drag dancer to stylish Prince, with the dimly lit stage allowing us to barely see the tossing of his female frocks into the air, and the donning of his sequined blue jacket, over baby blue tights. I recall Max and Alex dancing in long skirts, as they survived the gangsters' chase, as well as the very erotic and provocative use of black dance canes for Lynn and the showgirls. One of the final scenes uses brightly colored outfits, in yellow, red, and green, against the jet backdrops, many of which rose and fell, right in the midst of the dances.

Who's Who is a must-experience artistic adventure. Mr. Smekalov, Mr. Matulevsky, Ms. Povorozniuk, Mr. Melkaev, and Mr. Markov are all outstanding ballet performers, with athletic and muscular skills beyond imagination. Ms. Povorozniuk's solos and duets reminded me of the Bolshoi trained, ABT Principal, Nina Ananiashvilli's (See ABT Stage Door Candids) double-jointed techniques onstage at the Met Opera House. Yet, Ms. Povorozniuk's capabilities need not be compared to those of any other ballet Principal, as she is truly a Star in her own right. I only wish Maestro Eifman were presenting a larger Season Repertoire. We may review Eifman's Pinocchio, but I would really love to see Red Giselle. I may actually have to travel the globe to catch up with Mr. Eifman again, as these productions are so mesmerizing and magnificent. Autre fois — Kudos to Boris Eifman. Kudos to Slava Okunev, Costume and Set Designer. Kudos to Sergei Danilian and Ardani Artists Management, Producer. Kudos to Duke Ellington. (See Duke Ellington Birdland Review).


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
Who's Who
Vera Arbuzova as Lynn
Photo courtesy of Valentin Baranovsky



Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
Who's Who
Igor Siadzko as Max
Photo courtesy of Valentin Baranovsky

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