Here’s a little known fact about me: I’m a bit of a ballet fan. When I was younger, I took ballet classes for a decade and I was pretty damn good. I ended up giving it up but I’ve always loved it and go to see the ballet as often as I can. Recently, I’ve seen posters on the tube announcing the arrival of St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet in London, I was dying to go after missing out last time Eifman’s ballet was in town two years ago. Fortuitously, I have tickets to see one of the shows next week and as if that wasn’t exciting enough, I was given the opportunity to interview prolific choreographer and founder of the St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet, Boris Eifman.
Here is my interview.
The St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet was established over 30 years ago with a completely new concept of ballet. Why did you start your ballet company?
When I started my ballet company, I wanted to create a new movement in the ballet world. As an individual, I felt ballet was lacking a personal connection. I wanted an opportunity to talk to the audience, to connect. This form of expression didn’t work with traditional ballet; I wanted to take the opportunity to create my own theatre.
How would you describe this new style of ballet?
I call it ‘psychological ballet’; it combines ballet with theatre to communicate with the audience through dance. It goes beyond being something that you just watch to appreciate; it expresses emotions and ideas to interact with the audience.
Classic ballet is centred on visuals and aesthetics. My new style of ballet focuses on communicating with the audience; it’s more introverted and expressive. It’s important for me to provoke an emotion from my audience, to make people feel and think and learn.
How do you choose the stories you choose to convey through ballet, what inspires you?
I choose subjects that I can relate to personally, a subject that inspires my creative process. It has to be something I can relate to at a certain point in my life so I can express myself emotionally through the characters.
Did you receive much opposition from ballet traditionalists when you launched the company in 1977?
Yes, it’s safe to say the audience was split. I was fortunate enough to have many dedicated fans and admirers of my style of ballet but fans of classical ballet saw it as the only form of ballet.
The Eifman Ballet of St Petersberg last performed in London in 2012, are you excited to return with two acclaimed shows?
I’m very excited to return to London, we had a very positive reception in London so it would be great to mirror our previous success. Our Rodin production has been very successful in other countries and it is a privilege to bring it to London. The London audience is very well educated in the world of ballet and it would be an honour to have a positive reception here.
How has the audience responded to Rodin?
Entertainment is very different today, the focus is on television and the internet. With my ballet, the audience is interacting emotionally which cannot be replaced.
Could you describe Rodin in your own words?
Rodin is based on a passionate love affair between Rodin and his muse Camille Claude who tragically spent 30 years in a mental intuition following their break up. The ballet explores the story behind his famous masterpieces, the passion and creative relationship between artist and muse.
Could you describe Anna Karenina in your own words?
Anna Karenina is a well-known story of lust, love and passion. I wanted to offer a different interpretation; my goal was to show the destructive, emotional side of the story rather than recreating visuals. It’s the story of a woman who was dependant on her sexual life; she had no balance between her family and lover. The ballet is focused on her emotional and physical destruction.