What Boris Eifman Has To Say About Russia, Balanchine & Getting People To Turn Off The TV
In the 1970s, the Soviet government withdrew Boris Eifman's passport and declared his work pornographic. Today, he has funding from the Russian government for a state-of-the-art school and a company that travels the globe for several months each year. Last year alone, Eifman Ballet presented six different programs on the Bolshoi's historic stage.
What He Has To Say: With Eifman's Anna Karenina running at New York's Lincoln Center this week, Dance Magazine asked him about how he became embraced by Russia, and his thoughts on performing in Balanchine's house.
What Makes Eifman Ballet Different from Other Companies
"We synthesize the traditions of Russian ballet with modern technology and aim to create a ballet theater, not just dances set to music, but a theater, with actors, costumes, lights and beautiful sets.
"Nowadays it's difficult to encourage people to turn off the TV, spend money and go out. The desire to experience human emotions that the theater provides incites people to do that. We give the public those emotions through the language of the body."
Boris Eifman's Anna Karenina. Photo by Souheil Michael Khoury, courtesy Ellen Jacobs Associates
How He Describes His Style
"I aspire to Russian psychological drama, that's what I want to create. I can't categorize my style; my work can be pure neoclassical tomorrow, and the next day something completely different.
"It doesn't matter what language the choreographer uses; it's how he uses it. What you want to say and how you create it is the most important thing. Quality has meaning; the particular technique doesn't."
Dancing for Americans Vs. Russians
"There's no big difference. The public accepts us in both places. If politics or religion separate people, then the language of dance unites people and brings them closer together."
How He Eventually Became Embraced by Russia
"For the past 40 years, I've worked on creating a new ballet repertoire that's in demand. Marius Petipa created his ballets in the Mariinsky Theatre, they thrived there. Yuri Grigorovich created his works at the Bolshoi, and the Bolshoi blossomed under him.
"Now we're in the 21st century. The Eifman troupe has created its own repertoire which is connected, on the one hand, with both Petipa and Grigorovich, but it's a completely 21st-century troupe which meets the requirements of modern viewers, technology and theaters.
"Russia needs development now, and ballet gathers people together throughout the world. This is important for our art and our country. Our government supports my theater and our school both morally and financially, but I'm fully free to create what I want and that's a nice privilege."
The Pressure of Performing in the House of Balanchine
"I really love Balanchine. At our academy, we have a huge sculpture of Balanchine in the hallway.
"I differ in my style from Balanchine, but we also have a lot in common. Both of us try to unite Russian classical traditions with new creations. If Balanchine focuses on expressing music through movement, I try to go a bit further and also express what emotions push people forward. I'm interested in relationships between people on stage."
Next Year's Performance Plans in the U.S.
"I'll bring a new work, but I don't have a name for it yet. It will be different from my previous works which are tragic and philosophical—it will be a comedy."
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
We knew that Ivo van Hove and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's production of West Side Story would challenge our preconceived notions about the show.
But a recent Vogue story gives us a taste of just how nontraditional the Broadway revival will be. Most notably, van Hove is cutting "I Feel Pretty" and the "Somewhere" ballet, condensing the show into one act to better reflect the urgency of the 48-hour plot. (The choice has been approved by the West Side Story estate, including Sondheim, who has "long been uncomfortable" with some of the "I Feel Pretty" lyrics.)
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.