Second time’s a charm

The Eifman Ballet returns to Israel with two works

The Eifman Ballet (photo credit: EVGENY MATVEEV)
The Eifman Ballet
(photo credit: EVGENY MATVEEV)
Boris Eifman isn’t afraid to admit it when he feels his ballets are not perfect. In fact, the defining factor of his choreographic life has been a ceaseless pursuit of excellence. As such, Eifman is constantly reviewing his works, questioning where they come up short and what can be done to make them better.
Next month, when “Eifman Ballet” returns to Israel to perform at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, it will be with two creations currently in their second imagining. Both Tchaikovsky, Pro et Contra and Russian Hamlet began as other creations, which Eifman felt had somehow missed the mark or become outdated over time.
Tchaikovsky, Pro et Contra is the second ballet that Eifman has devoted to the 19th century Russian composer Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky.
“The art of Tchaikovsky exercised a decisive influence on my spiritual growth,” explained Eifman in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. Eifman, 72, is a legendary choreographer and a staple in the Israeli dance calendar. He is eloquent, sincere and direct as are his ballets.
“His works were the first music I heard in my life. I have already staged six ballets to the music of Tchaikovsky, but I want to work with his music over and over again because it is an inexhaustible source of creative energy and inspiration.”
More than 20 years ago, Eifman first devised a ballet about the composer.
“I staged the first production about the life of the composer back in 1993, it was the ballet named Tchaikovsky. Although it definitely was a milestone for our company, it focused on the personal tragedy of Tchaikovsky and not on his creative world. As the years went by, I came to the decision to present a new, in-depth look at the multidimensional figure of Tchaikovsky and, what is more important, to show how the genius music was born out of day-to-day disappointments and doubts.
When working on Tchaikovsky, Pro et Contra, I was striving to unravel the mystery of Tchaikovsky as a creator and define the roots of the tragedy of his works. The composer succeeded to attain iconic status and was adored by the audience but suffered from an inner split his whole life. One part of him strained toward the light while another was torn by the lusts of the flesh. Having been a religious and thin-skinned person, Tchaikovsky bore the burden of this personal split and thought of his homosexuality as a deep sin,” explained Eifman.
Russian Hamlet has also been recently reworked, Eifman went on.
“In Israel, the company will perform the new version of Russian Hamlet that premiered in 2017. 95% of the ballet’s choreography was revised. My goal was to turn Russian Hamlet of 1999, the 20th century era production, into a ballet of the 21st century, which would perfectly capture the artistic and technical achievements of modern ballet theater.”
Eifman acknowledges that it would be easier for everyone involved to let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak, however, he once he recognizes a flaw or problem in his work, he feels the utmost need to fix it.
“If my productions, even the most in-demand ones, get out of date (any ballet can become antique over time), I do not ignore this fact. I rethink and bring them up to date. This work is painstaking and demanding. But I cannot afford to provide the theatergoer of the third millennium with museum ancientry,” he said.
Finding the energy to work at as a demanding a pace as he does presents challenges to Eifman. When he began choreographing, endless hours in the studio were par for the course. These days, however, he prefers to work more efficiently.
“I tend to think that my choreography is becoming more vibrant, innovative and intellectually intensive. Although the strength of my body is not growing, now I have more artistic ideas than ever in my life.”
‘Eifman Ballet’ will perform at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center October 22 to 26. For more information, visit