Batsheva dance company.
(photo credit: PR)
Perhaps it was the strong passions and urges found in Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin, perhaps the greatest Russian poet of the 19th century, that drew Brazilian choreographer Deborah Colker to create Tatyana, named after the heroine of that novel in verse.
Colker set the first act around an oversized tree-like construction, which supplied endless options for climbs, jumps, slides and merry dancing. This outdoor playground is her way of circumventing the more formal, socially constricted society balls, the preferred pastime of the country gentry among whom the story takes place.
Previous ballet renditions convinced Colker to take a more daring approach. She used newly styled balletic moves, mixing them with loose, more contemporary nuances, adding gymnastics and occasional other flourishes. This works particularly well with large scenes designed both for the female dancers and, later, for the men.
Colker relied on Berna Ceppas for musical direction, and his collage was an unusual mix of Russian composers from Tchaikovsky to Rachmaninoff, along with Brazilian elements and other vocal effects including some recitation in Russian and Portuguese.
The strong cast of dancers was particularly lively, and found the right amount of fluidity to make all the stylistic shifts work well on an aesthetic level. In the end, however, the attempt to follow the plot so tightly and faithfully portray all the leading characters, while dispensing with strong stylistic frameworks, made it impossible to contain all that drama and keep it from becoming muddled kitsch.