Anna Karenina Revisited

Ballet Zurich performs Christian Spuck’s work inspired by Tolstoy’s classic novel.

Ballet Zurich performs Christian Spuck’s work inspired by Tolstoy’s classic novel (photo credit: MONIKA RITTERSHAUS)
Ballet Zurich performs Christian Spuck’s work inspired by Tolstoy’s classic novel
(photo credit: MONIKA RITTERSHAUS)
The last time Christian Spuck came to Israel, he presented a very personal ballet. Having recently taken over the reins of Ballet Zurich, Spuck wanted to open with a program that came straight from the heart. For Spuck, that meant Romeo and Juliet. The ballet had followed him throughout his illustrious career as a dancer and continued to be the narrative that most easily resonated in his mind and body. In the three years since, Spuck and Ballet Zurich have found a rhythm with one another, a harmony that has allowed the veteran choreographer to branch out into other stories and ballets.
This month, Ballet Zurich will return with Spuck’s interpretation of Tolstoy’s classic novel Anna Karenina.
“It’s one of my favorite books,” said Spuck in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. “It’s very haunting. You need a lot of time to read it, it’s very complex there are a lot of characters.
It’s such a beautiful portrait of Russian society. I’m not the first choreographer using this book to make a choreography out of it. I believe that this impressive book cannot be made into a ballet. You can only be inspired by it.”
Spuck has turned to literature for inspiration many times in the past. His aesthetic and dramatic sensibility is about conveying real emotion through fantastical stories. Spuck will be the first to admit that the world portrayed in ballet is far from his or anyone else’s reality. As such, you will be hard-pressed to find flouncing tulle and glittering tiaras in his ballets. In their stead is raw emotion, precise dramaturgy and dancers who know how to deliver emotion as well as they know how to twirl or jump.
“This book is about morals and marriage,” Spuck said. He went on to explain the different couples in the novel, all trapped in unhappy marriages for one reason or another.
“I think it’s still up to date today. Of course, Western society is more open about marriage. But in how many societies do young girls have to marry men they’ve never met before and have to spend their lives with them? In so many places so many women have no choice and how terrifying it must be for them. This book is about women and their rights to live their love.”
For this complex and intricate tale, Spuck has pulled out all of the stops and has fabricated a large-scale production that includes 80 performers, couture costumes and a fresh take on the plot lines.
“We tried to make it very simple,” he laughed. “I wanted to tell the story by dancing, but the costume designer found a way of creating costumes that reflect the 19th century but aren’t old and dusty. It takes place in an old ballroom in St. Petersburg, Moscow and the countryside. We have to make it understandable for the audience, so we use the video to show the audience where we are in the story. But it’s not overloaded.”
If on his previous visit to Israel Spuck was still getting his sea legs with Ballet Zurich, now he is fully and confidently embodying the role. Under his direction, the company has grown in both size and range.
“Since last season, Ballet Zurich is in a position that I always wanted the company to be in. It’s a big collective of great artists, not just dancers. Famous choreographers love to work with us and they’re coming back. We have great success with the audience, we’re basically always sold out, with both contemporary works and classical ballets. Everyone wants to see us. We have already been on tour to the Bolshoi with The Nutcracker, we just opened a major festival in Hong Kong and now we are on our way back to Israel.”
Spuck revealed that his next major project for the troupe is based on a circle of songs by Schubert.
“It’s about a man who has been left by his girlfriend and wanders through Germany in the winter. It’s something very melancholic. We will have 30 dancers and a singer on stage. I just saw the set and it looks very beautiful.”
Other plans for next season include works by two famed choreographers; Jiri Kylian and Marco Goecke.
Ballet Zurich will perform at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on June 26, 27 and 28.
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