Chicago Dance Review: EIFMAN BALLET OF ST. PETERSBURG’S “RODIN” (Auditorium Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on May 18, 2013

in Theater-Chicago,Tours


Dance should never be dull: That’s the acting credo of Boris Eifman’s kinetic Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, now erupting across the huge Auditorium Theatre stage through Sunday. Chicago may be a huge dance town already, but this amazing company is always welcome for their frenzied dancing, electric mood swings, pulsating lighting on swirling sets, and complete commitment to the emotional peak of every scene. The huge, young troupe consistently transforms spectacle from raw energy to a thrill-seekers delight. Eifman refers to the magic on stage as Lawrence Bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago Dance review of Eifman Ballet's RODIN.“psychological ballet”; whatever the term implies, we can feel as much as we can understand his constant, complex investigation of the multiple meanings behind every movement.

Eifman’s new ballet Rodin explores the textured genius of sculptor Auguste Rodin and his tortured love/hate relationship with Camille Claudel, his muse/mistress and fellow-sculptor. (Their mix of rivalry and romance immediately recalls Zelda versus F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920s.) Employing a supple score by French composers of the period (Saint-Saens, Massenet and Ravel), this two-hour tour-d’art focuses on Oleg Gabyshev’s tall and elegant Rodin, lean and lovely Lyubov Andreyeva as too-fragile Camille, and Nina Zmievets as Rodin’s dogged and damaged wife Rose Beuret.

The action opens with Camille in the mental asylum where she spent 30 years before dying forgotten in 1943. Joined by other mad ladies who abuse her, she dances out her insanity (perhaps the easiest thing to depict in ballet, which is why it’s such a favorite subject). Flashbacks to happier times become the main story: We see Camille’s raucous arrival in Rodin’s busy studio as a model who will herself turn Lawrence Bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago Dance review of Eifman Ballet's RODIN.marble into life. She is literally on a pedestal but, a proto-feminist in mind as well as heart, she will soon carve on her own. Remarkably, the dancer does as much to her body — and quicker than chisel and mallet could permit.

Eifman’s triumph is the opposite: His literally statuesque dancers turn life into marble as we watch Rodin and Camille moving their limbs into the desired finality of The Gates of Hell, Clotho, and other works. The galvanic ensemble effortlessly evoke Rodin: swirling students; villagers at a grape festival; pliable, homoerotic group sculptures in progress; soubrettes leaping into a can can or gallop at a Montmartre cabaret; and dream images of statuary to come or never to appear.

Lawrence Bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago Dance review of Eifman Ballet's RODIN.Along with swift lighting changes and the awesome living sculptures that Eifman molds as powerfully as Rodin did, there are splendid effects, like billowing shrouds in clouds, revolving walls that separate the lovers like their quarrels, sprawling silhouettes of the artisans frozen in action, a high-kicking bacchanal that all but scorches the Auditorium stage, and stretching spandex that reveals figures who seem aching to emerge.

Eifman’s greatest feat is, in effect, to recreate creativity. We see love as inspiration in the jagged, hypnotic and almost spidery duets between Rodin and Claudel, while Rose’s anguished solos exactly testify to all the outlets for love or art denied this all-suffering spouse. This wordless ballet attests to the many more than 1,000 words behind every stage picture — all generously presented in an enthrallingly sculpted saga.

Lawrence Bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago Dance review of Eifman Ballet's by Nikolay Krusser

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
scheduled to end on May 19, 2013
for tickets, call (800) 982-ARTS
or visit

then plays the Sony Center in Toronto
May 23-25, 2013
for more info on Eifman Ballet,

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit

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