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Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary with "Tchaikovsky. PRO et CONTRA" at NY City Center
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Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary with "Tchaikovsky. PRO et CONTRA" at NY City Center

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Ardani Artists Presents:

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
40th Anniversary

Boris Eifman, Artistic Director

At New York City Center
(NY City Center Website)

Tchaikovsky. PRO et CONTRA
(Tchaikovsky Bio)
Choreography by Boris Eifman

Maria Abashova, Lyubov Andreyeva, Lilia Lishchuk
Natalia Povoroznyuk, Dmitry Fisher, Oleg Gabyshev
Dmitry Krylov, Oleg Markov
Igor Subbotin, Sergey Volobuev

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 10, 2017

Some Eifman Ballet Program Notes:
Boris Eifman, Artistic Director, Choreographer, and Director, has won all the highest awards in the arts in Russia and was inducted into France’s Order of Arts and Letters. Eifman is known to fuse classic ballet with contemporary choreography and is fascinated with the magic of genius and the realm of the human psyche. Eifman stresses the theatrical impact of his productions, one ruled by emotions.

The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg has been geared for a continuous, creative process. Eifman has produced ballets to rock music, and he has also created ballets about Tchaikovsky and Moliere. He emphasizes psychoanalysis through movement and the energy of mass action scenes. Eifman has also designed ballets around Shakespearean theater, such as “Russian Hamlet” and “The Twelfth Night”. (Program Notes).

Tchaikovsky. PRO et CONTRA (2016): Music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Choreography by Boris Eifman, Sets by Zinovy Margolin, Costumes by Olga Shaishmelashvili, Vyacheslav Okunev, Light by Alexander Sivaev, Boris Eifman, Performed by Oleg Gabyshev as Tchaikovsky, Sergey Volobuev as Tchaikovsky’s Double, Lyubov Andreyeva as Antonina Milyukova, Tchaikovsky’s Wife, Maria Abashova as Nadezhda von Meck.

Joy and suffering, victory and defeat, the heights of ratio and storms of passion – all is to be laid upon the altar of great achievements in art. This is the destiny of any artist; he is constantly surrounded by both enthusiastic admirers and detractors. Tchaikovsky’s life is a non-stop dialogue with himself; his music is a confession, full of pain and anger. (Boris Eifman) In this recently created ballet, Eifman has raised the dramatically infused bar of angst, if that is possible, as all of his ballets evoke internalized torment and fleeting ecstasy. In Tchaikovsky. PRO et CONTRA, Oleg Gabyshev and Sergey Volobuev dance the lead roles, respectively, as Tchaikovsky and his mental image of himself. As Tchaikovsky rises from his untimely death to ethereally reflect on his life, as obsessive composer, tormented husband, impoverished artist, and longing soul, he is surrounded by his second self, his “Double”.

Throughout this two-act ballet, Volobuev is not only the Double, but also critical characters in Tchaikovsky’s ballets: von Rothbart from Swan Lake, Drosselmeyer from The Nutcracker, Onegin from Eugene Onegin, and Herman from The Queen of Spades. Rather than recorded musical clips of these ballets, we hear clips from Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 5 in E minor”, “Serenade for Strings in C major”, and the majestic “Symphony No. 6 in B minor” (“Pathétique”, 4th movement), among other works. All of this music is heartrending.

Mr. Gabyshev as Tchaikovsky, following his opening death scene, is constantly infused with gestural doubt, contractions of loneliness and grief, and open-armed, elusive elation at the creation of a new ballet. Choreography includes dashing about, flinging his legs, and covering his face in fallen exhaustion. Tchaikovsky’s wife, seemingly through a forced marriage, Antonina Milyukova, is danced by Lyubov Andreyeva. Her mad scene, reminiscent of so many balletic mad scenes, includes striking Tchaikovsky with her scarf, propelling herself about the stage floor with wide, luminous eyes, swinging her legs tightly about his body in a wanton pas de deux, and succumbing to death in theatrical attacks.

Maria Abashova, who was stunning last week in the lead in Red Giselle, danced the role tonight of Nadezhda von Meck, Tchaikovsky’s wealthy patron, who throws money at him, which he grabs and hugs to his chest, running home to continue his work. Ms. Abashova interprets this role with an air of hauteur and cultured sophistication. Sergey Volobuev, as Tchaikovsky’s Double, not only in the balletic character roles mentioned above, but also in the haunting, mirrored roles, within the composer’s life cycle, grips the imagination and the eye. He serves as Tchaikovsky’s gay lover, nurturing parent figure, and fantasy of strength and confidence. Gabyshev tries to emulate Volobuev, in this storyline, but implodes on each attempt.

The Company, as additional characters in three ballets, as well as extra cast in the biographical scenes, is extraordinary, with theatrical intensity of poise and affect. This is an ensemble of dancers with long, taut limbs and muscular power. It’s thrilling to observe their expressiveness and energy. Zinovy Margolin’s moveable sets and the Sivaev-Eifman lighting team kept the visual imagery mesmerizing. Most impressive was a scene from The Queen of Spades. The card table faced the audience, dancers tilted the table while dancing on it, or so it seemed, and the effect was breathtaking. The Shaishmelashvili-Okunev costume team created extraordinary and versatile costumes, for each of the ballets, for the wife, for the patroness, and for the charged duets for Tchaikovsky and his Double. Kudos to Boris Eifman, and kudos to Ardani Artists for bringing this production to New York.

Oleg Gabyshev and Sergey Volobuev
in Eifman's "Tchaikovsky. PRO et CONTRA"
Courtesy of Evgeny Matveev

Oleg Gabyshev and Lyubov Andreyeva
in Eifman's "Tchaikovsky. PRO et CONTRA"
Courtesy of Evgeny Matveev

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at