Emilia Di Luca
To some, ballet is whole other language. Technical terms identify each position, plié and pointe. On the other hand, ballet is not as foreign as you might think. It tells a story with body language—a language spoken by all, ballet dancers or not. At the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, ballet dancers bring Boris Eifman’s interpretation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina to life. Eifman’s choreography delivers the physical passion and psychological turmoil of Anna’s adultery for the audience to absorb and admire.
First premiered in 2005, St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet Anna Karenina marks the return of acclaimed choreographer Eifman to Toronto since his sold-out run of Rodin in 2013. With Anna Karenina, Eifman tackles troubled romance again in his singular style that marries contemporary and classical theatre and dance. Tolstoy’s infamous love triangle between aristocrat Anna (Maria Abashova), government official Karenin (Oleg Markov) and Count Vronsky (Oleg Gabyshev) gains new legs as Eifman translates the lengthy novel into a visual sensation.
While the colour palate of the production remains neutral, the costumes act as symbols. Vronsky is in white, Karenin is in black and Anna is in a variety of colours throughout her emotional journey. The costumes contrast too. In one scene, dancers bear elaborate masks and in another, the dancers bare it all in tight body suits mimicking their skin tones.
Like Eifman’s choreography and costumes, the setting is both beautiful and symbolic. To represent the eyes of St. Petersburg glaring at Anna, some scenes include silhouettes of ladies and gentlemen walking on a bridge in front of an intimidating yellow backdrop.
Beds emerged as a reoccurring symbol. Usually a place of comfort and intimacy, the bed often represented a cage or prison, like when Anna and Vronsky yearn for one another in separate beds on opposite sides of the stage under their own personal prison of a spotlight.
Symbolism and choreography collide in Anna’s final scene where she commits suicide by throwing herself under a train. The train: the group of ballet dancers dressed in black and dancing in an aggressive, mechanical style to mimic the menacing chugging of the train. From the bridge, Anna throws herself into the mass of dancers as though the train engulfs her body. The final scene echoes an earlier scene where Anna stands in the centre of her son’s toy train track and snowflakes fall over her body.
Of course, the individual performances by the leads Abashova, Markov and Gabyshev were breathtaking, but the group performances, like the “manmade train,” stole the show.
Eifman proves that ballet can uncover for his audience the physical and psychological passion and struggles of Anna.
St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet Anna Karenina ended April 25th at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. For more information visit http://www.sonycentre.ca/home/media/Media-Details.aspx?evtID=1216.