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Eifman's Tchaikovsky

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I come to Eifman late. I've been hearing and reading about him for about ten years now, and nothing could live up -- or down -- to my expectations. How critics around the world can acclaim him as a great choreographer is beyond me, but I've also seen much, much worse. Maybe he was over the top once, but there wasn't anything in Tchakovsky, The Mystery of Life and Death that was new to me. Actually, it all seemed rather Seventies.

All through the performance, I kept thinking, "But it's not as bad as"... Not as bad as Ben Stevenson's "Dracula" or Septime Webre's Sweet Honey in the Rock piece, or much of the New Now dance I've seen in the past 15 years. Not as bad as Neumeier at his worst, or even at his mid-range. A friend said it was "a poor man's Bejart;" probably an accurate assessment.

But great? The second half added nothing to the first; it was as though he'd told the story and liked it so much he wanted to tell it again. And his musical sensitivities aren't mine (watching the "Serenade" section was especially rough).

I didn't read the program notes before the VERY LATE curtain (and still haven't). I had heard so much about the Birds of Black Thought that I expected to see Big Black Birds flapping big black wings, and so missed them (I guess they were the black-clad lads that had a brief dance in the first half; I kept thinking of Massine's symphonic ballets during that bit.)

I couldn't tell the Nympho Bride from Mme. Van Maeck when they were unclothed. I lost the story thread of the Doppelganger (equally tortured). And Eifman's idea of Tchaikovsky as a tortured, party boy with a stevedore's body isn't mine. The whole approach was rather simplistic, to me -- lots of psychological material without any real depth. And the choreography (a blend of classical and character dance) was simple, too. Lunge, turn, kick, turn, LIFT.

The dancers. I've also read about how excellent the dancers are. I thought they were excellent performers, but not very good dancers. You couldn't have asked more of Albert Galichanin (Tchaikovsky). He held the stage, he had extraordinary stamina. I haven't seen anyone of the current generation of Kirov or Bolshoi -- or ABT -- dancers who could have been convincing in this role, or this mature. But he has a rather tight line, not very flexible in the legs and hips, and that could be said about most of the other men as well. There's no school; the Swans held up their right hands as though halting traffic, and splayed the fingers of the left. Turns were iffy throughout. But one could say that classical niceties are not Eifman's concern, and I will say this for them: I did not see a single dancer counting. They danced.

Demographic note. It was not sold out, but there was a good turn out. I've never heard so much Russian at intermissions, including at performances of the Kirov and Bolshoi. The audience didn't seem very into it -- perfunctory applause, I thought. There was a very slow-moving, rather reluctant standing ovation at the end.

Did anyone else go?

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No, but the company was rehearsing in our studios on Friday, and I have never seen so many TALL dancers in one place in my life! :) Lots of very tall males, and the females also extremely tall and long...and extremely thin. Many looked so much alike physically that is was almost scary. The extreme thinness was also scary.

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