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Eifman at Orange County

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I had a 2nd crack at Eifman's Anna Karenina Thurs. night. As I recall, the first time I saw it I liked it, as I do all Eifman ballets. Very Eifman-ish but it seemed dramatically lovely, and I looked forward to seeing it again. Well, either the ballet changed or I did. There is really very little dancing in the pdd's; it's all lifts and angst. A little goes a long way. There was no chemistry between Anna (Povoroznyuk) and Vronsky (Kasyanenko); I can almost charge it up to the fact that Vronsky must have been exhausted from hauling Anna around all night.

However, that final scene in which the corps is the train under which Anna hurls herself is great. The music hammers and I was totally involved; loved it.

The dancers are very athletic but not all that balletic. None the less they make a good impression.

There is no synopsis of the ballet in the program. If you don't know the book you can get lost very quickly. Tomorrow I see The Seagull and I'm frantically trying to find a synopsis of the play. I know it's about a writer, and in the ballet the writer is changed into a choreographer. (Who would have thunk it?)


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What a difference a day makes. Friday Eifman Ballet presented The Seagull and I loved it. I have to remind myself that when I see an Eifman Ballet I'm going to see Eifman, not Petipa. Think Eifman! The first act belonged to Dmitri Fisher as Treplev, the young choreographer. Fisher is handsome, a good dancer (think Eifman) and a sensational actor. His role is almost all acting; it's that Eifman angst to the max. He drips chemistry with everyone with whom he dances. Maria Abashova was Zarechnaya, the young ballerina; Nina Zmievets was the established ballerina Arkadina. I found Abashova the better technician of the two, but Zmievets is a very unusual looking, reed thin, dancer and the more interesting one.

Act II is the better act, and in contrast it belongs to Yuri Smelakov as Trigorin. In Act I Smelakov is overshadowed by Fisher, almost lost in Fisher's bravura. In Act II Smelakov is a marvel. He has 2 solos that are exquisite; he's a wonderful dancer. There is a dance for the corps to music that I can't explain ... exotic, throbbing; the segment raises you out of your seat and you're dancing with them. The 2nd act was so good that I forgot the first act!

Eifman dancers are rarely happy; they are forever portraying moments of agony. It was nice to see them actually smiling at times in The Seagull!

I'm sure there was a lot of symbolism in this ballet that completely eluded me. In Act I there was a "thing", a cover containing several dancers. It undulated, and dancers emerged from it at various times. I'm not too sure I want to delve into that.

As I said in my previous post, the dancers are very athletic. And I don't think any of them have a bone in their body; they're rubber!

Several of the dances were done to percussions. I love that.

There was a hip-hop dance, and one of the dancers (the one in orange pants) was so proficient and smooth that he seemed to float over the floor.


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Thanks for those reports, Giannina. If they didn't provide a synopsis of the plot of Anna Karenina, did they do so for the less well-known Seagull? . Also, what were the Seagull costumes and setting like? I'm having a hard time visualizing turn-of-the-20th-century figures doing hip hop -- or even wearing orange pants. :huh:

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bart, if you go to the link provided by drb you'll read the little bit of information that the audience was provided in the program. The setting is the 21st century; ergo the hip-hop.

drb, thanks for the link and photos. Yes, that's the "thing". Not a very good picture of it; it took various shapes and was in constant motion. The dancer in front of it emerged from it.


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I saw "The Seagull" in Berkeley, and will see it again in OC. This is a once only type event, as we hardly have the resources to travel at leisure to see Ballet, and then see the same show again at home, but we met friends to see the show in the bay area two weeks ago while my husband had to be there on business. And, well, this week, my daughter, who has been wanting to see Eifman, is finally home from her residency program for spring break, so we will all go see it in OC.

If I may be permitted to analyze "the thing" that produces dancers, here is my personal view, based on nothing other than just personal observation and a "feeling," of what "the thing" is. I believe that this is when the choreographer "dreams" his dances and choreography (perhaps in his dreams, literally; perhaps when he is listening to music for inspiration). As he dreams, dances, or movements (portrayed by dancers) emerge from his dreams.

Ok, now you can shoot me down, or come up with another interpretation. Anyone?

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Thanks, Gianina, for your review - reading it convinced me to go see "The Seagull" after I too was disappointed by Anna Karenina. And I enjoyed Seagull much more than Karenina - there was plenty of anguish, yes, but it was more evenly spread out and the characters were better constructed for us in the ballet. We understood their anguish this time around, instead of seeing them only in anguish. There was also quite a bit more purely classical dancing involved, through ballet rehearsal and class scenes - the dancers are really wonderful and it was great to see them showing their strong classical technique. ANd there's hip hop, too!!

My interpretation of the "undulating thing": within the plot of the ballet, I think it was a ballet that the Treplev, the young choregrapher created. It's a weird, esoteric piece that other characters in the ballet don't understand. We see this the ballet being performed at a performance - this takes place behind a scrim, while Arkadina, the established ballerina that Treplev is in love with, and Treplev "watch" seated downstage but staring out to the audience. Arkadina falls asleep while watching Treplev's ballet being performed, making him furious and disappointed, especially when she wakes up and runs after him clapping in a fakely enthusiastic way. And he's disappointed because he wants her to like his ballets the way she likes the established choreographer's (Trigorin) ballets. In Chekhov's "Seagull", young Treplev wants people to like the new play he has written - especially Arkadina - but they get distracted when established playwright Trigorin comes along. The later appearances of the "thing" are visions of his ballet - he interacts with it later, too.

I think the undulating thing has a lot to do with how the hip-hop section comes into the ballet as well. Frustrated that no one understands his work, including the new dancer he has selected to star in his "thing" ballet, he runs out into the street - where the rest of the world is listening and dancing to hip hop, not classical. That gives him some sort of release. I love the moment afterwards, where the lights come up in the rehearsal room and all the female dancers are all listening to hip hop on earphones. When Trigorin comes in, they hurriedly toss the headphones aside as Trigorin glares... then he fires up the classical music and its back to classical ballet.

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