The body passionate

After an extended tour abroad, the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg production of 'Anna Karenina' lands in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem.

ballet 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
ballet 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Leading Russian choreographer Boris Eifman brings his company back to Israel, this time with Anna Karenina, a piece he first premiered in New York three years ago, toured with throughout America, and re-staged in Manhattan last spring. Known for dramatic - some say schmaltzy - works that merge classical and modern dance, Eifman has translated quite a few literary masterpieces into the language of ballet. Speaking from his Petersburg home, Eifman says his interest in psychoanalysis influenced his choice of material for his new piece, which strips the great novel of almost all its famous characters and sociological content to focus on the trio of beautiful Anna, her officer lover Vronsky and her anguished husband Karenin. "In my search for the possibilities to express the subconscious by means of choreography, I realized that in this novel, Leo Tolstoy, long before Freud, presented a subtle and profound analysis of a woman's inner world, of her hidden desires and dark passions, which ultimately lead to her tragic downfall. The almost banal triangle of husband, wife and lover gave me the chance to reveal the unknown in the familiar, to show the dark abyss into which this woman, erotically dependant on a man, falls." Eifman defines his new piece as the company's latest bestseller, and believes it has proved popular "because by immersing spectators in the atmosphere of eroticism and sensuality, I show them that ballet is not only about the beauty of the human body and the esthetics of movement, but is also able to express human passions of all kinds. This demonstration of new possibilities of modern dance attracts thousands of ballet lovers. I tried to show that this story could have happened in any time, even in the present, because passion is timeless. The heroine not only loses control of herself, but discovers another personality in herself, one with its own desires. It is the impossibility of maintaining these two beings in one body that leads her to suicide. This drama is expressed through the language of the human body, which never lies, but neither has it any conscience." Eifman, who studied not only choreography but also piano and musicology, is known for his ability to read a score to its depth and merge it with dance in the most subtle, precise and often refreshing manner. For this show, he opted mostly for Tchaikovsky's music, "fragments from symphonies and famous overtures like Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet as well as some rarely performed pieces. But even the most familiar pieces sound different when supported by choreography, and I hope the audience will hear this music anew and realize the composer's ability to express the most subtle human emotions." Electronic music especially composed for this production by Leonid Eremin sounds toward the end of the ballet, when Karenina's world deteriorates. "Even those critics who disliked the work found that Karenina is a new word in ballet - a psychoanalytical tool. These are new movements, new compositions of the dancers' bodies," says Eifman, who adds that he is unable to explain how he translates human emotions into stage movement. "I see it as gift from above which you can develop but not analyze." The life story of Eifman, who sees choreography as a mission, is far from usual. Born in Siberia into a family of engineers, he later moved to the rather provincial town of Kishinev, capital of Soviet Moldova. There he decided to devote himself to ballet, "which was strange because nothing in my immediate milieu suggested it. It is not like growing up in Leningrad, where the very air is impregnated with culture. I just felt that I was chosen by God for this mission." As a young man, he traveled to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) to study choreography. He created his company in 1977 and struggled with Soviet culture authorities to ensure its survival. Petersburg for him is a special place. "This city is special not only because of its amazing architecture, but because of the artistic energies which dwell here. Many generations of artists lived and created here, and I still feel their presence. Each time I return to Petersburg, I feel a creative urge rising inside me. During the hard times, I received quite a few offers to work in the West, but decided to stay. I am a citizen of the world, and am proud that I have preserved a dance theater in Petersburg, which continues the traditions of Russian classical ballet while still a part of world culture." Anna Karenina will be performed December 13, 15 and 16 at 9 p.m. and December 14 at 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, December 17 at 8:30 p.m. at Haifa's Convention Center and December 18 at 8:30 p.m. at Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha'uma