Sunday, March 11, 2007

Jacques Lacan in a Tutu; a Review of Boris Eifman's, Anna Karenina.

Kudos to Boris Eifman for his stylish, avant-garde ballet, "Anna Karenina" performed at Cal Performance last Sunday, March 11th. Eifman's dancers are lean, honed, metallic comets of speed and flashing motion. Eifman's ballet; a model of "scenic psychoanalysis" is a study of Karenina's descent into despair and suicide, as a result of a tragic love triangle and unresolvable conflict between her roles as mother, wife, lover.

The smoldering eroticism of the ballet is reminiscent of the dancing style of the late Rudolf Nureyev. Somber stage sets, haunting music, incense, sex, prayers and rituals of purification occur as the ballet unveils, for the soul of Anna Karenina is on fire. Viewer beware for Eifman's ballet insists that the audience participate in rituals of regression, self purification and pathos. It is impossible to watch this ballet and not be singed by shadows of past love and lost possibility.

True to psychoanalytic form Anna seeks integration of her multiple identities. When social restrictions prevent her from doing so, her psychotic decompensation reflects Lacanian images of "the other." Anna becomes a symbolic snake in the garden of Eden shedding illusory skin. The flow of the dance is dreamlike in its surreal depiction of scene within scene; feelings open as black flowers and vanish as smoke.

Boris Eifman belongs to the discourse of the surrealists and it would be interesting to see him step outside his Russian motif altogether. If anyone could choreograph an essentially surreal "Dante's Inferno," or the world of Andre Breton or Salvador Dali, it could be him.

However, it should be noted that there is a hyperbole in "Anna Karenina" which slightly detracts from its magnificence. I also felt that the costuming, intended to express social repression detracted from the beauty of the dancer's bodies. At times it appeared as though the women were dancing inside of tight balloons.

According to Lacan, verbal discourse is the agency of the unconscious, understood as intimately related to functions and dynamics of language. Boris Eifman in his amazing originality becomes a transmitter of Jacques Lacan in a tutu.

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