One of Russia’s most prestigious contemporary ballet companies is coming to Toronto bringing to life Tchaikovsky’s PRO Et CONTRA and exploring the inner workings of the famous composer’s tormented mind.
The Eifman Ballet Company, which was founded in 1977 by award-winning Russian choreographer and artistic director Boris Eifman, will have three shows from May 9-11 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
Based in St. Petersburg, the Eifman ballet consists of 40 dancers and has performed around the world. This will be their fourth time in Toronto, and the Canadian premiere of Pro Et Contra. The show is presented by Show One Productions and TO Live.
“TO Live is thrilled to once again work with Show One Productions in presenting the return of Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg,” said Clyde Wagner, the president & CEO of TO Live in a press release. “Having played to sold out houses on previous visits to Toronto, we look forward to continuing their success with their innovative presentation TchaikovskyPRO Et CONTRA and its tragic exploration of the well-known artist.”
Eifman, 72, is originally from Siberia, and graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory. After many decades working in the Russian ballet world, he is one of the few Jewish choreographers and artistic directors in Russia of such high profile, and is viewed by many critics to be one of the world’s leading choreographers.
Eifman founded his ballet company with the desire to develop an unprecedented repertoire of “Russian psychological theatre,” as well as with the vision of creating a company that pushes the boundaries of contemporary ballet through the use of new forms of choreography.
PRO Et CONTRA explores a different side of Russian composer Pyotr Illych Tchaikovsky, and combines his own “death-bed reveries” and life recollections, with intrusions of characters from his more famous works, like Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Eugene Onegin.
“Everybody knows who Tchaikovsky is, no matter who you are, but the majority of people associate his music with the happy stories like The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, and his very famous operas, but he’s a grand composer that wrote all kinds of music,” said Svetlana Dvoretsky, the president and executive producer at Show One Productions.
“What people don’t really know is that he lived a really tormented life. He was a very religious person, and at the same time he was a homosexual, which at the time, was against religion and against the law, against every belief that existed.”
Dvoretsky said this internal conflict haunted the composer throughout his entire life, and he greatly struggled to find peace between his religious beliefs and his sexual orientation. This inner dilemma, according to Dvoretsky, is precisely what has drawn Eifman to this particular story.
“If you look at the productions that are created by the Eifman Ballet, you can see that they all have a common component — they all have a big story behind them, like a real, big, dramatic story,” said Dvoretsky.
Other performances that the Eifman Ballet has produced over the years have been Anna Karenina, The Idiot and Red Giselle.
Dvoretsky believes this production of Pro Et Contra is a unique amalgamation of Tchaikovsky and Eifman, and will not only cause audiences to contemplate the dark side of this famous composer, but to think about the various sources for his suffering: his constant loneliness, the hostility and oppression he experienced from others because of his homosexuality, as well as the nature of genius and the price of fame.
“Tchaikovsky is one of Eifman’s favourite composers, and [in Pro Et Contra] he’s trying to figure out the mystery behind Tchaikovsky’s life and how such a tormented, unhappy, tortured soul could create such timeless music,” said Dvoretsky. “Eifman is inspired by very complex life stories — all of his productions have very complex stories and complex answers.”