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'The subtle relationship between the drama of an artist's life and his art has always attracted me," says renowned Russian choreographer Boris Eifman in a phone interview from his St. Petersburg home. He is talking about his latest world-acclaimed production, Don Juan and Moliere.
Eifman and his ballet theater, frequent and welcome guests to Israel, this Wednesday kick off a week-long tour here of their over-the-top ballet theater spectacular that both intertwines and sets against each other the lives of soul-searching playwright Moliere and the amoral sexual adventurer who was the subject of one of Moliere's greatest plays - Don Juan. Eifman has said that the playwright's creation embodied many of the traits he himself desired: facile, seductive, daring and audacious.
"Why Moliere? I think he was an excellent example of a great artist who suffered a lot and transformed his suffering into pure art."
Eifman, a graduate of the Leningrad Conservatory, is known for his amazing ability to translate music into the language of movement.
"There are two music flows in this show. One is that of Don Juan, who is traditionally associated with Mozart; I took Mozart's symphonic music, not his opera [Don Giovanni]. Moliere is represented by Berlioz; on the one hand because the carnival element is so powerful in his music, and on the other because it is also very lyric and romantic."
The innovative choreographer explains that in fact two theaters take the stage in this modern ballet, one of Moliere and the other of Don Juan.
"I am very proud that we managed to mingle many different layers of ballet language into a solid show and express by means of ballet the very subtle movements of the artist's soul."
The Russian Jewish choreographer who has conquered the world was born in a dug-out in Siberia, where his engineer parents were sent to work. He was seven when they managed to move to Kishinev in Moldavia. At 13 he realized that the only thing he wanted was to become a choreographer.
"This is something to which I cannot find a rational explanation. Nothing in my surrounding suggested it. This is not like being born in Leningrad [now St. Petersburg], with its rich ballet tradition. I see it as God's gift. This gift is a great responsibility; I do not belong to myself, and I live to fulfill it."
He later moved to Leningrad to become a student of choreographer Leonid Yacobson. Eifman inaugurated his own ballet theater in 1977, but only 11 years later did the authorities let him tour abroad.
"The first 10 years were very difficult for us. It was a real fight to survive and stay free under the Soviet regime."
More than once the choreographer considered emigrating to the West, yet stayed. "I am a citizen of the world, and I am proud that we have preserved in St. Petersburg the ballet theater, which has its own place in world culture."
Eifman emphasizes that he has never copied the West. His works, he says, develop out of traditional Russian ballet theater.
"We are very proud that among the sweeping enthusiasm for modern ballet, we have preserved the ballet theater, which could have disappeared. I always knew that the tradition of classical Russian ballet had the potential to renew itself."
Eifman describes that tradition as "philosophic, emotional, spiritual and spectacular, involving intense acting.
"In a word, it is a dancing spirit."
February 1, 2, 3 and 4 at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, February 5 at Haifa Congress Center, and at Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha'uma on February 6