Photos – Belinda Strodder www.dancephotography.net.au
The theatre is a place of fantasy, where the impossible is achieved and dreams are lived out on stage. For an audience member there is a silent understanding that as the house lights dim and stage is lit, you are entering another world, a world of beauty, romance and unspeakable feats of athletic ability. Boris Eifman and his stunning company of dancers have at long last reached Australian shores in their incredible debut performance of Anna Karenina. Based on Leo Tolstoy's 1877 novel, the heated love triangle remains a favourite amongst romance lovers and literary types for over a century.
The intense drama is a befitting story for the Eifman dancers, all the passion, joy, fear and despair are conveyed through the choreography with such grace that should you not know Tolstoy's novel, the dancers weave a story so intricate and so complex with their movements that you never miss a plot twist or emotion.
All of Eifman's dancers are exceptionally tall, lean and have the obvious classical training that audiences have come to expect from the Russian ballet. Maria Abashova, who plays the title character, displays exceptional strength and death-defying tricks, and is rarely seen offstage except for a myriad of costume changes that would leave even the most disconcerting fashionista breathless.
Tearing herself from an unhappy marriage, Anna falls for the dashing cavalry officer Alexey Vronsky (played by Oleg Gabyshev) who (literally) spins her under his spell. As the two dance through their romance, Eifman's choreography speaks in the leaps and bounds his dancers portray. Not simply amazing technical athletes, Abashova and Gabyshev are wonderful actors able to convey emotion with a pointed toe or elegant lift.
Joined onstage by Oleg Markov as Alexey Karenin, Anna's much older husband, he is a thrilling example of classical ballet for a new era. Markov dances as though he is made of liquid, seamless and fluid, both as he grieves his wife's departure and despises her choice of another man.
There is an abundance of life in Eifman's choreography, not simply through the dancers and their incredible technique, but also through the stunning sets that immediately transport you to 19th Century Russia and the costumes that are almost too spectacular for words.
Backed by a chorus of beautiful artists, the highlight was the masked ball when a snapshot of this glorious company was displayed leaving an awed audience in their wake.
Everything about Eifman's Anna Karenina is excessive; costumes, sets, drama, romance and action. At times it is so fast paced it can be difficult to keep up with the dancers twists and turns across the stage.
This is a brilliant production, staged by a master of ballet and a company of the highest standard.
Eifman Ballet Presents
Venue: The Regent Theatre, Melbourne
Dates: August 29 – September2, 2012