On the second weekend of May, Chicago Auditorium Theatre hosted the return of the famous modern ballet company from St. Petersburg that brought a full-scale ballet spectacle “Up & Down”, choreographed by the Artistic Director of the company Boris Eifman. In recent years, Eifman Ballet brought to the international audiences, as a part of the American, European, and Asian tours, such performances as Rodin, Tchajkovsky, Don Quixote, Red Giselle, Anna Karenina, among others. All of Eifman’s ballets, including the current Up & Down, are each based on a dramatic story that is being told with choreographic means. Up & Down is loosely based on a F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “Tender is the Night”. As in all his other ballets, Eifman puts together a story that has a salient psychological plot, and he utilizes his considerable stagecraft, to provide a rich background to the unfolding performance. To the difference from the previous ballets, Up & Down refers to the relatively modern times, 1920s, as the relationships between the main characters unravel rather vividly on the French Riviera, during the Jazz Age. At the same time, the main characters are American. In an interview, Eifman conveyed his fascination with this era’s sense of “…freedom and unrestrained rhythms…. [and] hedonistic spirit…” Eifman goes on to point out “an interesting counterpoint: the drama of personality unfolding among decorations of the endless carnival.” And the endless carnival indeed ensues on stage, it appears, not only providing a counterpoint, but also may be somewhat distracting from and blurring the main plot line. That said, the main plot perhaps itself calls for a carnival background – what else would you expect from a tumultuous relationship between a psychiatrist and his young and beautiful crazy patient, first within the confines of the institution, and then completely out of any possible and impossible confines. At the same time, however, the choreographer attempts to maintain seriousness while trying to depict the relationship drama. Still, being explicitly presented as a “psychological ballet”, it appears that the author’s take is sometimes is a bit moralistic rather than psychological, as far as it can be discerned in a ballet. Nonetheless, the story depicted is very engaging, and skillfully delivered.
The Eifman’s dancers are very athletic as always, and at the same time expressive and emotional in their precise craft. The show is set to the music of George Gershwin, Alban Berg, and Franz Schubert, with luxurious setting designed by Zinovy Margolin, complete with quite incredible costumes, including ever so elegant white robes, ties, and ropes and chairs worn and played with at different times by the crazy and gracious institution dwellers, the costumes designed by Olga Shaishmelashvili. The lead roles were beautifully executed by Oleg Gabyshev as a Psychiatrist and socialite, Lyubov Andreyeva as the Patient, and Angela Prokhorova as the Movie Star, who competed whimsically for the doctor’s attention. The audiences clearly enjoyed the performance, and the organizers note, that as Auditorium Theatre Executive Director Brett Batterson observed, “Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg is a company that embodies the Auditorium’s mission to present innovative, diverse, and passionate work, and we are thrilled to have them return to Chicago for another incredible performance”. This performance comes during the 125th Anniversary Season, which was made possible by many generous sponsors, such as Lead Corporate Sponsor Nicor Gas, Lead Foundation Sponsor Robert R. McCormick Foundation and David D. Hiller, International Dance Series Sponsor NIB Foundation, and “Made in Chicago” Dance Series sponsor The Boeing Company.
Upon completion of the Chicago premier, Eifman ballet is on to present it in New York, and we wish them success on their journey.
S Telis, L Mogul for Kontinent Media
Photo Courtesy of Auditorium Theatre