Review: EIFMAN BALLET’S Tchaikovsky

The fervid life in dance of a great artist

By Bradley Storer

In addition to their season of Anna Karenina, the Eifman Ballet also presents their original production Tchaikovsky, an expressionistic journey through the composer’s life and imagination set to his own music.

We begin at Tchaikovsky’s death bed as he is tormented by fever dreams and hallucinations, chased by phantoms from his own creations. As he retreats further into his mind we are taken into flashbacks from his life, his disastrous marriage, his insecurities and inability to connect with others, either romantically or in society at large.

Throughout the performance, Oleg Markov as Tchaikovsky danced the role with an intense but wounded poeticism, forming the impression of a man with immense genius but an equally great terror of rejection and loneliness. He was matched in brilliant lyricism by the Double (Oleg Gabyshev) and the Prince (Ivan Zaitcev), projections of Tchaikovsky’s inner turmoil and ideals of perfection. In the dances between these male characters, there is an equal balance of wonder and veiled eroticism.

Tchaikovsky’s fear of women becomes refracted and split into figures of monstrous femininity, the dark fairy Carabosse, the Queen of Spades, and a mysteriously malevolent bride who entangles him in her wedding veil. His wife (played here by Natalia Povoronzuik) unfortunately receives little time to create a full impression, and comes off a little flat and one-dimensional.

Tchaikovsky’s patroness and lifelong friend Nadezha von Meck (played by Nina Zmeviet) receives better treatment, becoming almost as equally important in the performance as Tchaikovsky himself – she becomes the audience’s main focus of empathy as we see her supporting and reaching out to the doomed composer, and her pain as he slowly slips away from her.

Because the dreamscape of the ballet is so fractured and fluid, the narrative becomes imagistic and can be a little difficult to follow without the aid of a program. Ultimately it seems like no overall message is being communicated in Tchaikosvky’s story – we see him live and we follow him to his death, but I personally was left unmoved at the end of the ballet. However, it is a world-class production with amazing performances and brilliant dances, and is well worth a visit by any ballet aficionado.

Sept 7-9, 8pm Fri-Sat, 2pm Sat-Sun

Regent Theatre Melbourne

Book online at Ticketmaster

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