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Eifman's Who's Who

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I've copied this over from Links:

Robert Greskovic reviews Eifman's latest opus in today's Wall Street Journal. Rush out and buy a copy :) The text is available online only to subscribers, but here's an excerpt:

To frame and surround the action, Mr. Eifman has drawn on a surface understanding of Broadway dancing a la the none-too-deep Bob Fosse and meshed his received wisdom with a penchant for angular, awkward and strident gesture that disallows most nuance and subtlety. Each of the 26 scenes comes off as a florid minicartoon dominated by broad sight gags and often arch accentuation. Slava Okunev's stylized costumes and spare metallic set are mostly effective and occasionally nondescript.

If this were an isolated example of Mr. Eifman's handiwork, I'd be tempted to assume its lack of distinction stemmed from an American movie genre that the choreographer couldn't quite plumb due to his limited exposure to it. I'm afraid, however, that the crassness on display throughout "Who's Who" is all too typical of Mr. Eifman. His range of dance theater effects is sorely limited, with the monotony of unison calisthenics at one end and the obviousness of silent-movie-style, melodramatic contortions at the other.

The review also mentions that Eifman has been commissioned to do a ballet for NYCB next year in honor of the Balanchine centennary and concludes: "Whether the outcome will be one of Mr. Eifman's lighthearted creations or one of his more tragic depictions, the chances that it will be a ballet worthy of Balanchine's memory are about as likely as those for dodging the bullets of mobster hit men in gangland fiction."

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I think for opinions to be that polarized, there has to be something he's doing that either is exactly what the viewer thinks ballet ought to be, or is anathema.

I think the "loathe" crowd here has made their opinions known, so can we let the "love" crowd go first? :) What is it that he's doing that makes you look forward to going, and makes you come back for more?

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I feel unqualified speaking for the "love" crowd, since "Who's Who" is the only Eifman ballet I've seen. I didn't know what to expect and I suppose I was charmed by the sheer chutzpah of the piece -- to combine the Russian-Jewish immigrant experience with a gloss on "Some Like It Hot!" I mean, you have to be crazy, right?"

Anna Kisselgoff noted that Eifman didn't distinguish betwen immigrants and emigres. Thus. he opened with an image of huddled masses yearning to breathe free that was more evocative of the ancient lower East Side than contemporary Brighton Beach. It was corny, sure, but to this son of Sicilian immigrants, it was moving. What followed was a long series of sketches. I hesitate to use the term "cinematic," because I haven't seen a movie in two years. Some sketches worked better than others. The Jewish wedding scene was hilarious, as was the beach scene. The nightclub scenes were, as has been noted, Bob Fosse-like. But I don't remember any boring scenes.

The inflated prose of the program says "Boris Eifman creates his own type of theater -- a theater ruled by emotion." It's true that the emotion does not necessarily emanate from the steps in his choreography. You might say he manipulates the audience. But in Who's Who, he kept things moving to some really great music, much of it jazz and swing, but also including Barber's Adagio for Strings (another cliche, perhaps, but it was jusr right in the scene called "Nostalgia") and a couple of pieces by Rachmaninov. I thought it all cohered surprisingly well.

I hope someone who has more experience viewing Eifman ballets will help me out here.

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