This past week, Israel has welcomed back a very special guest, The Boris Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg. The company's Israel tour which began on Monday night continues through January 12, with performances in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa.
In the beginning of the week, the company presented The Seagull, based on Chekhov's work. Two performances of Eifman's dazzling creation Anna Karenina, a ballet take on Tolstoy's classic novel, will close the company's tour here.
Boris Eifman is a survivor. Born in Siberia in the 1940s, he has seen his country rise and fall, change hands and alliances, and become something entirely new. For the past thirty plus years, Eifman has been creating dance in Russia.
His work is intense, sensual and fiercely emotional. He has been loved, shunned, persecuted and loved again. Eifman explains, "I have an immense experience of survival among people. I didn't break down or feel deeply depressed at the time when I was being chased, humiliated, or pressed out of the country - when my choreography was categorized as pornography. In spite of everything, I kept myself and my theatre."
Russia is the home of classical ballet. Known for providing impeccable training and flawless technique, Russian ballet schools, such as the Academy of the Kirov Ballet, have become internationally renowned. Many of the world's most famous dancers, including Baryshnikov and Nureyev, have hailed from the frosted streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In modern day Russia, however, the glory and prestige associated with ballet has begun to dissipate. "Ballet in Russia has always been the elite art. It was patronized both by the tsar's court and by the Soviet regime. The cultural priorities have begun to change and our society is losing something - gradually but inevitably. Our theater, for this moment, is the only one in Russia which represents the ballet art of the twenty-first century," Eifman says.
His priorities are clear: to preserve the rich history of Russian dance and cultivate a new generation of ballet dancers. As such, Eifman has become involved in a project to create an orphanage/conservatory for Russian children. "We will not only teach these children choreography, we will bring up the future cultural personalities of the new Russia. I would like our Academy to raise the creative leaders of the ballet art," he says.
Despite shifting trends, Eifman's place as an innovator in the international dance community is secure. His company tours extensively throughout the world, delighting audiences with intellectually sophisticated, dynamic choreography. His creative process often involves a piece of classic literature. Beyond the two pieces being performed on this current tour, his repertory includes, Russian Hamlet, Don Quixote and Pinocchio.
Eifman's journey from the point of inspiration to a finished product remains a mystery to him. "I start preparing for the production - I listen to the music, I read a lot, I write many pages. It is like walking an unfamiliar way and finding yourself in an unexplored space," he says.
When asked what he has most enjoyed of his long and successful career Eifman replies, "choreographic art is a way of uniting people in modern society. I think that choreography is a special instrument by means of which it is possible to express and transmit information and energy to thousands of people. And not just transmit, but infect with emotion."
Anna Karenina is performed on Jan. 9 at 1 p.m. and Jan. 10 at 9 p.m. at the TAPAC, (03) 692-7777; Jan. 11 at 8:30 p.m. at Jerusalem's International Convention Center, (02) 655-8558; and, Jan. 12 at 8:30 p.m. at Haifa's International Convention Center, (04) 851-8000