Capitol Theatre, Sydney
15- 19 August 2012
By Lynne Lancaster.
Pretty ballet purists will hate this, but if you are into jaw dropping contemporary dance amazingly performed, this is it.
The Eifman Ballet’s Anna Karenina is a pared down, psychological thriller version that concentrates on the triangle of Anna, her husband and Vronsky – there is no Kitty, Levin, Dolly et al in this reworking. This adaptation of the Russian classic was first performed in 2005 and here uses the assorted, edited, recorded music of Tchaikovsky. This is the first time the Eifman Ballet have toured Australia and it has exploded onto the Capitol stage with the force of a tsunami.
It is obvious that Eifman likes his dancers tall, lean and with a long flying line. They are incredibly daring, athletic and able to perform his extraordinary choreography full of fiendishly difficult, unusual lifts and swirls. He demands a very high, soft jump and amazing turns. The dancers must also be able to act.
Nina Znievets as Anna is astonishing. In an amazing performance she gives a portrait of a woman who sacrifices all for love and disintegrates into drug addiction and mental breakdown. Towards the end, in the incredible pas de deux with Vronsky, she is like a bizarre broken puppet, manipulated by her fears and longings.
As Vronsky, Oleg Gabyshev is breathtaking with impeccable technique. He is a great actor too. In this version Vrosnksy is portrayed as young, extremely handsome and very much in love with Anna. He has a couple of amazing solos that display his incredible jumps and his partnering in the pas de deux is exemplary.
As Karenin, Oleg Markov is more than excellent. While superficially cold and aloof (especially to Anna) we see the boiling passion hidden underneath. He is tall, blonde, handsome and quite distinguished. An amazingly elegant dancer, he has some fabulous solos.
There is fine ensemble work by the huge cast, especially in the ballroom scenes, train scene and the breathtaking finale.
From a design perspective generally the production is quite sparse and simple, with (for example) just a sofa or bed spot lit. But there are also some opulent scenes and visually impressive use of a bridge at times. The bridge is also dramatically tilted and used symbolically when Anna has her breakdown in Act 2.
The costumes, magnificently designed by Slava Okunev, range from dazzling, exquisite ball gowns, masks and uniforms to skin coloured unitards. The overall colours of the production are mostly grey, silver and black, with some beige/khaki for the soldiers, contrasted with the occasional splash of colour.
If you want to see ground breaking contemporary dance don’t miss this!
Photo: Eifman Ballet’s Oleg Markov and Nina Zmievets in Anna Karenina. Photo by Cynthia Sciberras