By Rebecca Martin.
Eifman Ballet is arguably Russia’s most exciting modern ballet company and is touring Australia for the first time this month. The company’s namesake, director and choreographer, Boris Eifman, is considered the face of modern dance in Russia and is bringing his 50 elite dancers to our shores to perform new works including Tchaikovsky and Anna Karenina. His company comprises young, slim, and acrobatic dancers that are tall with long limbs – the minimum height for females is 174cm and males is 185cm.
The company’s only non-Russian dancer is America’s Amber Miller, who has trained with Ellison Ballet’s Professional Training Program in New York City and won first place in both contemporary and classical categories at the Youth America Grand Prix. She was also featured on the web series Dance 212 which followed Amber’s training and life prior to her appointment with Eifman Ballet.
Dance Informa managed to catch Amber during her vacation before getting stuck into rehearsals for the Australian tour…
You turned down a contract with Houston Ballet in the US to join Eifman Ballet. What was it about Eifman Ballet that enticed you?
Deciding to turn down Houston Ballet and join Eifman Ballet was a difficult decision for me. Houston Ballet is such an amazing company with many talented dancers and is extremely close to my home in Dallas. I never, in a million years, thought I would have the chance to go to Russia, let alone dance in a Russian company. So, when I was offered the contract from Eifman Ballet, I felt I couldn’t turn it down. Boris Eifman is such an imaginative choreographer and all of his ballets are so different from anything else out there. Getting the chance to be a part of the Eifman Ballet company and perform throughout the world at many of the great theatres has been an incredible experience!
What professional/dance challenges have you encountered since joining Eifman Ballet?
I went to school at Ellison Ballet in New York City and we mainly focused on pure classical ballet. Edward Ellison, the owner and Director of Ellison Ballet, does a tremendous job with pre-professional dancers and he gave me the skills necessary to dance professionally. Coming to Eifman Ballet was a little difficult at first because it is mainly contemporary, so I had to learn how to loosen up and use my technique in a different way while learning a completely new style. I also had to step in for a few performances when someone became sick or injured. While on tour in Berlin, I actually found out an hour before the show that I had to dance for a girl who had gotten sick! All of the dancers really helped me. During intermission we actually rehearsed the second act so I would know exactly where to go. It was definitely a stressful, but extremely gratifying experience.
What personal challenges have you faced?
I have experienced some personal challenges since moving to Russia. This was my first year away from home, so getting used to living without my family was definitely difficult at first. Thank the Lord for Skype and Facebook! It was also extremely challenging when I first moved because I did not know any Russian at all. Luckily, all the dancers are really nice and have helped me so much to learn the language and to help me get around St. Petersburg.
Tell us some highlights of working with such a wonderful company.
I have always wanted to travel and see the world. With Eifman Ballet, I have been able to do that. I’m still amazed at all the wonderful places we get to travel to and the beautiful theatres we get to perform in. Another major highlight is getting the chance to work with Boris Eifman. Watching him create new ballets is such an incredible experience and I am constantly amazed with the choreography and ideas he is able to produce.
What interesting cultural differences have you encountered?
Before moving to Russia, I was expecting everything to be completely different from the United States. Apart from the language, things are not all that different. There are a lot of restaurants, stores, malls, etc that are the same as in the United States. I spend my free time with friends doing mostly what I did in the States…eating, shopping, and enjoying time together.
Are you more Odette or Odile?
I am definitely more of an Odette. I’m a shy and quiet person most of the time, especially when I first meet someone.
What are you looking forward to doing when you come to Australia?
I have always wanted to visit Australia!! I am so excited and can’t wait to finally go. I know it’s kind of cheesy, but I am looking forward to seeing a koala bear and kangaroos. I am also really excited to see how the locals live and what everyday life in Australia is like.
Catch Amber and Eifman Ballet in Sydney and Melbourne:
Capitol Theatre, Sydney
Aug 15 – 26
Regent Theatre, Melbourne
Aug 29 – Sep 9