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Robert Abrams
Performance Reviews
New York City Center
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Eifman's Russian Hamlet

by Robert Abrams
April 25, 2007
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
My favorite section of Eifman's Russian Hamlet came in the first act. The Queen walks on stage with a very long blue cape trailing after her. She wraps herself in the cape and reaches. This looked like a cross between Revelations and Lamentation. Hamlet and his Bride are separated by the cape, suggesting that the Queen wants to separate Hamlet from his ambitious Bride as a way to control him. Hamlet and his Bride find a way to be together despite the barrier between them. They then dance with the cape stretched in front of them while lit from behind. They formed very strong silhouettes. The effect was very cool. The section ends with both dancers dragged off stage as the cape is pulled off by unseen hands.

Another very cool section was to be found in act two. The Queen sits on her throne with a black blob topped by a skull behind her. The blob rises to become a large puppet formed by three dancers inside the black cloth. The puppet of death, possibly Poor Yorrick come to life, envelopes the Queen with its long encompassing arms.

There was a use of a long gold cape in the beginning of act one that establishes the Queen's regalness, and the same gold cape upon which Hamlet is pulled off stage at the very end of act two, as well as the use of a white cape in the middle for a ghost sequence, but the two I described above were truly stunning.

The rest of the ballet was merely superior. The dancers had great extension. The set was impressive. It looked like one was staring up at the top of a great dome while also looking straight on at the structure, which was a design feat worthy of Escher. The costumes were sumptuous, as were the stagings. Many numbers had over 10 or 25 dancers on stage at once. The partnering was very fine. The lifts were smooth and assured. I also liked the contrast between Hamlet's early dancing, which was strident and angular, and his later dancing when he danced with his Bride and was happy, which was smoother. Most of the plot points read clearly if you had read the program notes, except that it looked to me like Hamlet's Bride was having a willing affair with the Queen's Favorite, rather than being his prey as the program notes suggested. The three person tall tower that was created as the closing image of act one was impressive.

I do have a couple of suggestions for improvement. The first suggestion has nothing to do with the dance company. There was an audience member about three rows in front of me who was wearing one of those Minority Report style Bluetooth Ear-Phones. In the middle of the ballet it started blinking for five minutes and then it stopped. I don't think this person was blinking on purpose, but perhaps theaters need to start telling people to turn off all cellphones and other devices that make noise OR blink brightly. My second suggestion has to do with a bit in act two. During a party that can only be described as an S and M ballet with a whip, some of the men lifted one of the female dancers up on a set of what looked like parallel bars, on which she proceeded to move about. While Eifman gets points for this because I have never seen this done before, I thought he could take the idea further. It would be really cool to see what a real gymnast or cirque dancer could do on such parallel bars held by other dancers.

Overall, I thought that Eifman's Russian Hamlet was consistently good classical ballet with a few truly bold passages that made the evening.

The Empress - Maria Abashova
Hamlet - Ilya Osipov
Favorite of the Empress - Ivan Kozlov
Hamlet's Bride - Natalia Povorozniuk
Hamlet's Father - Oleg Markov
Music by Ludwig van Bethoven, Gustav Mahler
Choreography, Libretto, Production, Lighting Design by Boris Eifman
Set Design and Costumes by Slava Okunev
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