Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg
presented by Cal Performances
Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley
May 10th, 2013

Both visits that I made to the ballet last week had a common denominator: love. First came the youthful, hopeful, ‘happily ever after’ of Cinderella and Prince Guillaume at San Francisco Ballet. Fast forward three days to a different venue, a different ballet company and a very different love story, that of sculptors Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel. Boris Eifman has envisioned this hypnotic love story into “Rodin” - an evening–length narrative filled with his daring choreography. The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg’s Bay Area premiere of “Rodin” was a dramatic and stunning finale to the Cal Performances dance season.

The curtain rose to reveal the women of the asylum, all costumed in white. Tortured, frenetic movements spoke of frayed psyches; the masses looking like an institutionalized version of the Wilis from “Giselle”. Camille, danced by Lyubov Andreyeva, emerged from the center of the crowd, eyes wide with depth, fear and obsession. In one instant, she appeared almost childlike, and then in the next was totally detached from reality; completely distant from the present. Andreyeva is a mesmerizing mover, yet she is equally skilled as an actress – her face and her haunting eyes spoke volumes.  

“Rodin” did not follow a linear timeline; instead opting to toggle between scenes in the mental institution and vignettes from Rodin and Camille’s past. Eifman likely crafted the work (and brilliantly so) in this haphazard chronology to reflect the unbalanced and volatile nature of Rodin the man, his relationship with both Camille and Rose, and the mental state of all three main characters.

Company members of Eifman Ballet perform "Rodin Project"
Photo courtesy of Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg 

During his opening solo, Oleg Gabyshev constructed the character of Rodin as a manic, tortured genius, which carried into Rodin and Camille’s first pas de deux. As Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” played delicately in the background, Gabyshev and Andreyeva created a living sculpture with their partnering, lifts and poses. Passion and tumult were the primary emotions; expressed in their work, for each other and inwardly toward themselves. Rodin and Camille’s abandon was visceral, so much so that they became completely intertwined and utterly damaged. As Eifman’s gorgeous pas de deux came to a close, his message leapt from the stage: here were two individuals who spent their whole lives obsessed with sculpting the landscape around them, yet were powerless to control the consequences on their respective mental states.

Though the character of Rose Beuret (Nina Zmievets at this performance) was certainly present in “Rodin’s” first half, her role as his ‘other love’ was much more prominent in Act II. While Rodin and Camille were fiery and out-of-control, Rodin and Rose were genuine, perhaps even gentle at times. And as the lights dimmed, the truth shone. Rodin may have truly loved both Rose and Camille, but he was always trying to sculpt them into who he needed them to be.      

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