Saturday, May 14, 2011

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg

EIFMAN BALLET OF ST. PETERSBURG, proficiency personified

Standing in the lobby of the State Theatre on opening night of the world famous EIFMAN BALLET OF ST. PETERSBURG’s was like being in a Russian performance hall. The echo of the sounds of the Russian language pervaded the space.

Many of the audience members were former residents of the Soviet Union. Hugs, kisses and zdravstvuj (the Russian word for greeting someone with whom you’re on an informal/friend-basis) and dobryj vyechyer! (good evening) filled the space. At the curtain call, as is the custom in Russia, many audience members flowed toward the stage, shouting to the performers. The large, local, fairly-recent Russian immigrant population had come to see each other and welcome their cultural arts heritage. It was quite an experience.

Also quite an experience was watching the Eifman Ballet in action. Appearing in Cleveland for the first time in nine years, the extraordinary company is noted for revolutionizing dance and for its creative blend of traditional balletic moves within a contemporary dance modality, to create dance dramas. There is an adventurous and innovative feel to the movements.

DON QUIXOTE has been transformed from the normal setting to being placed in an insane asylum, and renamed FANTASIES OF A MADMAN. Choreographer Boris Eifman has created an interesting twist on the famous Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes’ tale of an idealist who takes on all opponents as he dreams the impossible dream of curing the world of its ills.

We watch as the company uses pails, a hula hoop, balls, and a balloon to tell the tale with pathos and whimsy. Eifman combines the traditional with the modern as dancers on-pointe dance besides those using gymnastic and modern dance moves. Traditional classic lifts and partnering combine with marching and bull-fighting movements. There is a marvelous pas de deux as well as trust leaps.

Capsule judgement: Viewing the Eifman Ballet is a treat. Not only is the company grande and fun, but it is an opportunity to see classic ballet in a city without a true ballet company. Spasiba (thank you) to Gina Vernaci, Vice President of PlayhouseSquare Theatricals for bringing in this world class company.