Eifman Ballet, Anna Karenina, London Coliseum

Firstly I should ‘fess up: despite being a ballet fan, I know very little about it beyond fifth position. I certainly wasn’t aware of the politics of dance – I thought it was all tutus and pas de deux. But the (British) ballet critics are more ferocious than a really pissed off fairy godmother when it comes to Russian Director Boris Eifman.

In town for just two nights, Boris’s ballet company wowed the Londonberg sections of the audience (and me) even if the arts press were sniffy about the “ballet for people who don’t like ballet”. True, there’s no subtly to this Tchaikovsky-scored two-hour piece. Eifman has stripped it down to its very core: woman marries man, falls in love with another, everyone gets very upset, watch out for that train! The skeleton plot is matched by the narrow spectrum of emotion – there’s a lot of angst, lust and anger, but little in-between. But Maria Abashova’s almost-gymnastic style contortions were moving in their extremity and there were some fine set pieces. Eifman used the corps de ballet with great effect – the final scene where the corps become the train that Anna throws herself under, was, dramatic yet tenderly played. Not one for the purist then – but a passionate stab at an epic.

by Suzanne Elliott

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