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Jennifer Wesnousky
Performance Reviews
New York City Center
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg: Anna Karenina

by Jennifer Wesnousky
May 28, 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



Presented at NY City Center (W. 55th between 6th and 7th)

(For more on Eifman please see a Review from 5/25/05, an Interview with Boris Eifman, a Preview from 5/2/05 and a Review from 4/13/03.)

By Jennifer E. Wesnousky
May 28, 2005

Having read more than one review describing Boris Eifman's vision and choreography using such adjectives as "daring," "controversial," and "shocking," one could question the extent to which a ballet might merit such criticism (or praise, perhaps, depending upon one's point of view). However, Eifman's Anna Karenina, performed at the New York City Center between May 24 and 29, 2005, indeed lives up to his glorious infamy, revealing a man who is never afraid to bare all, not only through choreography which is sometimes explicitly sexual, but with the explicit portrayal of psychological conflicts that continuously haunt both his characters and society. Despite that the basic story of Anna Karenina could be stated in a sentence (Anna, the adulteress, grapples between her commitment to her husband, Karenin, and young son, and her passion for her lover, Vronsky), Eifman delves deeply into his characters' multi-faceted obligations and emotions, remarkably expounding upon this theme in a full-length ballet in which, while little actually happens in terms of external plot, the psychological action is constant.

Eifman employs a multitude of symbolic vehicles to explore his themes and characters, from physical objects such as snow falling upon Anna's seemingly perfect family and a metaphorically recurrent locomotive, to his costumes and choreography. In a scene in which Anna and Vronsky are separated from one another, locked away in their respective bedrooms, his unison choreography demonstrates the extent to which, even while apart, the lovers feel connected. Anna's movement furthermore differs sharply when in the presence of her husband and her lover, with whom she exudes lightness and passion. Their classical choreography incorporates modern-tinged lines, floorwork and provocative lifts to explore their mutual infatuation. And yet, despite Anna's ardor for Vronsky (danced by Alexei Turko with explosive charisma), she later becomes physically and metaphorically stiff to him in a poignant scene in which he carries her board-like body across the stage. In spite of Anna's death in life here, Eifman and his long-time costume designer, Slava Okunev (seldom has an audience beheld such stunning costumes as the ones Okunev has constructed for this performance) have opted for Anna to wear white in this scene. The fact that Anna wears white, black and blood red at different times during the performance presents that, in our passionate humanity, perhaps there is no one answer as to whether Anna- or any of us- are essentially angelic or demonic.

By bedecking many of his characters in both black and white, Eifman's visual representation of dualistic forces encourages the audience to see multiple sides of them. While Vera Arbuzova's Anna could most easily be construed without sympathy, one cannot not help but to feel pity for her as her emotionally captivating and versatile performance makes clear the intensity of an internal battle which leads ultimately to her taking her own life. Oleg Markov's brilliant portrayal of the tormented Karenin, who lurks behind Anna and Vronsky, painfully aware of his wife's infidelity even in scenes in which he is not forced to behold it directly, is both stirring and disturbing. He clings, throughout the ballet, to the notion of his wife remaining with him, even while it is clear that she is emotionally estranged.

Eifman makes use of his corps de ballet's superb energy and skills for thematic reiteration. He is the master of huge ensemble pieces which feature a multitude of levels and layers- both aesthetic and psychological- in which in the female dancers seem, at the hands' of the male danseurs, to be in constant flight. A choreographic orgy in which flesh-toned unitards represent the dancers' nakedness plays with the forces, not only of sexual passion, but of our emotional nudity and vulnerability in the face of them. The notion of conforming to society's expectations is emphasized constantly, most notably in a number in which the corps executes military-style movement and in the visually exquisite masquerade ball that points out the extent to which we all wear masks to conceal who we really are. And yet, while the prospect of being judged by society undoubtedly contributes to her torment, Eifman's multi-dimensional Anna Karenina is ultimately destroyed by the manner in which she judges herself.

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

Artistic Director: Boris Eifman
Principal Dancers: Maria Abashova, Vera Arbuzova, Elena Kuzmina,
Natalia Povorozniuk, Julia Trandasir, Albert Galichanin, Yuri Ananyan,
Alexei Turko, Yuri Smekalov, Igor Markov
Soloists: Anastassia Sitnikova, Alina Solonskaya, Alexander Melkaev,
Alexander Ratchinsky, Sergei Zimin, Constantine Matulevsky, Oleg Markov
Corps de Ballet: Olga Astreiko, Olga Grigorieva, Diana Danchenko, Sofia
Elistratova, Yelena Kotik, Marianna Krivenko, Liana Madisheva, Marianna
Marina, Elena Ponomareva, Olga Semyonova, Natalia Smirnova, Agata
Smorodina, Oxana Tverdokhlebova, Valentina Vassilieva, Evgenia
Zodbaeva, Ekaterina Zhigalova, Sergei Barbanov, Sergei Volobuev, Vadim
Domark, Oleg Gabyshev, Pavel Gorbachev, Dmitri Fisher, Ilia Osipov,
Maxim Pegushin, Igor Polyakov, Constantine Serovikov, Ilia Shcherbakov.

Ballet by Boris Eifman in two acts.

Music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky

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

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

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