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Russia’s Eifman Ballet Invades The Southern California Dance Landscape

Photo by Evgeny Matveev

St. Petersburg’s Eifman Ballet (http://www.eifmanballet.ru/en/), lead by the legendary Boris Eifman recently returned to Southern California for performances of his most famous creation Red Giselle at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa (www.scfta.org).

A tribute to great Russian ballerina Olga Spessivtseva, Red Giselle, portrayed by stunning dancer Maria Abashova,  is the story of the artist, whose greatest role was Giselle, from the time she was selected to star in the Imperial Theater, through her complex and abusive relationship with a secret police agent, to her flight from Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and 20 years in a psychiatric hospital in New York.

Photo by Evgeny Matveev

Red Giselle is one of Eifman’s best known productions, with a narrative expressed through the lens of the dancer’s most celebrated role. A compelling ballet-within-a-ballet, the production blurs the lines between real and imagined in a gripping, contemporary tragedy performed with richness and ingenuity. Featuring music by Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Adam and Schnittke, Red Giselle, first debuted in January 1997, has become a modern classic.

Boris Eifman and Maria Abashova | Photo by Doug Gifford

SCFTA held a special reception after the dramatic performance for Mr. Eifman and the company.

Boris Eifman with Jane Arnault Facot and Max Factor | Photo by Doug Gifford

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7-eMk3WkF8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statement from Boris Eifman: “By creating this ballet we wanted to pay the tribute on behalf of the ballet theater to the memory of Olga Spessivtseva, a great ballerina with the tragic fate.

Our ballet is dedicated to Olga Spessivtseva, one of the greatest ballerinas of the twentieth century. I was astonished when I learned the details of her life: the unique actress, bathed in glory and worshipped by fans and critics, spent 20 years in an asylum outside New York, absolutely alone and deprived of all her rights! The tragic emotions I felt, became the impulse for creating the ballet. This is not an illustration for Spessivtseva’s biography; rather this is an attempt to generalize her fate and the fates of many talented people who were forced to leave Russia and who came to a tragic end.

Spessivtseva was a brilliant Giselle. The ballerina got into the role so deeply that she lacked the power to come back to the real life: Giselle’s fate became hers. That fact that Spessivtseva as a prima-ballerina became involved in the bloody events of the revolutionary Petrograd played a fatal role in her life: the red symbol, like the symbol of the fate, haunted and tortured her. The emigration did not only bring her professional and personal disappointments, it filled her life with even more tragedies that led, in the long run, to the catastrophe.”

Photo by Evgeny Matveev

The company, that celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, also made a stop in Los Angeles to perform Eifman’s controversial ballet “Tchaikovsky.”

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