Eifman Ballet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Boris Eifman has choreographed many ballets about artists and their creations: the first work his Saint Petersburg-based company performed here was Red Giselle, based on the life of ballerina Olga Spessivtseva, and the second was Russian Hamlet: The Son of Catherine the Great, which interpreted history in terms of Shakespeare's play. But there's nothing dryly reflexive or airless about his work, which feeds on and universalizes the passions of the artistic life. For its third appearance here the company offers two full-length ballets, one about a furtively homosexual artist, the other about a famously het character. The 1993 Tchaikovsky: The Mystery of Life and Death showcases Eifman's highly dramatic, imaginative movement, often cleverly centered on props. In a passionate push-pull duet, Tchaikovsky and another man in long nightshirts vault over a bed, shirttails flying; later a trampoline serves as an arena for an all-male orgy. Tchaikovsky's ill-fated marriage is represented by a ceremony in which the bride wraps her veil around his neck: is this an embrace or an attempt to strangle him? Hallucinatory theater scenes--a representation of Swan Lake, for example--indicate the composer's ambivalence about the theatrical realization of his work. If Tchaikovsky depicts how an artist must repress his sexuality to succeed in the theater, Don Juan and Moliere (premiered last year in New York) shows how a writer lives out his fantasies through his characters, contrasting the quiet life of the ailing Moliere with the adventures of this legendary seducer. Described by one reviewer as "over-the-top in every way," this piece sounds as flamboyant and passionate as all the choreographer's works; or, as Eifman dancer Alexander Rachinsky puts it, "About his creations you can think, argue, et cetera--because they are not dead." When it comes to ballet, that's saying a lot. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-902-1500; 312-922-2110, ext. 4, for groups of 20 or more. Tchaikovsky: The Mystery of Life and Death through March 14: Wednesday-Thursday, 8 PM. Don Juan and Moliere through March 17: Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $27-$57.

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