A master of the art of ballet, Boris Eifman, the creator of the performance „Eugene Onegin”, to be presented at the Romanian National Theatre Festival on October 25th, on the stage of the Grand Hall of the National Theatre Bucharest, strikes through the „extravaganza of his phantasies”, as the Russian press notes. Founder of the Academic Ballet Theatre and of the Ballet Academy in Saint-Petersburg, named after him, described as a „choreographer- philosopher”, „psycho- analitical choreographer”, Boris Eifman says he develops, together with his company, „a unique, ancient language of the body, as an instrument of understanding and expressing the human soul”. On the occasion of the presence of the company in Bucharest, Boris Eifman answered a few questions for the RNTF website.
Maria Sârbu: „The dancing soul” of dreamy Tatyana, Alexandr Pushkin’s character from the versified novel „Eugene Onegin”, will soon be seen in Bucharest. We will see how feelings, emotions, moods are expressed through the language of movement. When you created this very sucessful performance, were you guided by the creative instinct only, or did you include the emotions, the feelings that always accompany the creation of characters?
Boris Eifman: Everything an artist creates is highlighted through a special creative intuition. Formulas or algorhythms don’t work in the field of the arts. Otherwise I wouldn’t have to give a year of my life to create a performance; I would save time, energy- spiritual and physical.
Personal experiences, including emotional ones, are very important, but it’s impossible to make them your only guide. I can’t be equal to Pushkin’s Tatyana or Anna Karenina. But, as a choreographer, I have to understand the psychological essence of the main female characters in my ballets and express that through the means of dance. It’s possible to do that using the language of the body, a unique and subtle mechanism of understanding the soul.
M.S.: In your performance, the characters in Pushkin’s novel become emblematic of our times. Why did you want this to happen?
B.E.: I didn’t calculate in this respect, I did not flirt with the audiences (especially young audiences). I found it interesting to ponder on how the Russian soul transformed, during these almost two hundered years since Pushkin wrote this masterpiece. The novel in verse is set in times of drastic historic change, that underline the transformation as well as the permanence that compose the spirit of the nation. I also do not consider ballet as being a hermetic, decorative art, isolated from the contemporary world and its acute problematic. Dance can help us to profoundly reflect on the recent past of our society, as well as on its present.
M.S.: The ballet theatre you created in Sankt Petersburg is well known at a global level. What is it that worldwide audiences appreciate? What differences, what similarities have you noticed in their reactions?
B.E.: Worldwide audiences are attracted and brought together by the powerful emotional shock they experience seeing the performances of our ensemble. Believe me: blockbusters, pop- stars, not even the internet are not able to offer such energetic impulse. One might be suspicious; not everyone is prepared for such inner change, especially today, when people all over the world so highly appreciate comfort and rest. We do extract people from their usual emotional surroundings and offer them the possibility to experience catharis, the purification of the soul.
M.S.: There are various categories of audiences. Some want classical ballet, others contemporary dance. When conceiving a show, do you think about the audience? Or do you consider art as being supreme?
B.E.: I never tend to become a crowd pleaser, to follow their taste. That would be an infailible method of destruction of the my creative identity. My artistic style, my trademark as an author have certainly evolved in time. But not because I was trying to comply. I am always on a quest for new creative solutions, attempting to create the ideal performance.
M.S.: How did you start your attempt in developing the art of contemporary dance, taking classic ballet school as your starting point?
B.E.: I created a theatre because I needed my own creative space, that would allow me to reach artistic fulfillment. The academic frame of the Soviet era was too narrow for me. Still, I never rejected classical choreography; I always preferred evolution to revolution. While keeping what my predecessors had created, I consistently developed my own art, a unique art: the Russian psychological ballet, that includes classical, neoclassical and modern elements. But probably the most important thing for me are the fundamental laws of theatre, that have been, in fact, ignored by the art of ballet along the 20th century. Returning to them is necessary in order to form that real choreographic language of the new era.
M.S.: When founding the Boris Eifman Dance Academy in Sankt Petersburg, you thought of educating a new generation of dancers annd choreographers. In what direction do you think the choreography of the 21st century will evolve, at a global level?
B.E.: It’s quite hard for me to speak about the art of ballet in general, since there is so much diversity in it. We notice there are lots of crisis in the world of dance. First of all, there is a deficit of highly qualified artists and of bright creative personalities, who could determine the art of ballet to move out of the stagnation phase, to part from the past and step into the new millenium. If our Dance Academy will contribute to creating a new generation of leaders in the field of the arts, I will be a truly happy man.
Photo credit: Vyacheslav Arkhipov