Bww Feature: THE PYGMALION EFFECT Of Boris Eifman And His New Ballet Coming To The Segerstrom May 24
Segerstrom Center for the Arts is excitingly welcoming the return of the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg with the West Coast Premiere of The Pygmalion Effect May 24-26, 2019 in Segerstrom Hall.
A new ballet from the company's award-winning artistic director and choreographer, Boris Eifman, The Pygmalion Effect is inspired by the Greek mythological tale of Pygmalion - a sculptor who became infatuated with his own life-like carving of a beautiful girl. Renowned for works that are "bold, psychological and highly theatrical" (The New York Times), Boris Eifman infuses his signature choreographic style into this dynamic new production, set to a score by "The Waltz King" Johann Strauss (ii).
The Pygmalion Effect received its world premiere in St. Petersburg's Alexandrinsky Theatre on February 6, 2019. This new production marks choreographer Boris Eifman's return to the genre of comedy or, more accurately, tragicomedy; a form which the choreographer has perfected.
Eifman offers the audience a balletic interpretation of the archetypical story of Pygmalion. In the ballet the protagonist is a successful ballroom dancer who transforms a clumsy girl into a virtuoso performer. In this production, Eifman presents a comprehensive artistic and philosophical portrayal of a human personality's remarkable flexibility and ability to adjust in response to set aims and aspirations. The title is a reference to a well-known physiological phenomenon whereby a person's performance is positively influenced by the expectations of others.
Eifman has said, "We are not fully aware of our real capabilities. Each of us possesses creative energy, which gives a human being capacity for personal development. Nonetheless, in order to achieve transformation, we often need someone to help us find faith in ourselves." He added, "The Pygmalion Effect is a choreographic interpretation of the myth about an artist and his creation, a new view on how art and life are intricately intertwined but never one and the same."
The company's ability to immerse their audiences into the boundless world of human passion, to build a strong spiritual bond, to amaze and sometimes overwhelm them by the intensity and energy of its plastique, has defined and ensured its recognition and the decades-long success of Eifman Ballet's performances at leading venues around the globe. His works have inspired ballet lovers in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Australia. Don Quixote, I, Red Giselle, Russian Hamlet, Anna Karenina, The Seagull, Eugene Onegin, Rodin, Her Eternal Idol, Beyond Sin, Requiem, Up & Down, Tchaikovsky and PRO et CONTRA represent the highest artistic level of achievement in contemporary Russian ballet.
Boris Eifman is not just a choreographer, he is a philosopher deeply concerned about the issues of today and challenged by the mystique of creativity. Eifman speaks directly to his audience about the most complex and dramatic aspects of human existence. He defines the genre as "psychological ballet." The New York Times calls Boris Eifman the leader among living choreographers: "The World in search of a major choreographer need search no more. He is Boris Eifman."
Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg was established by Boris Eifman in 1977 (the original name of the company was the Leningrad New Ballet). The concept of the New Ballet was more than innovative for its time: from the first days of its work it was conceived and developed as an experimental laboratory, a ballet theatre for one choreographer.
With great anticipation of the premiere of "The Pygmalion Effect," I had the pleasure of asking the many questions I had for Boris Eifman, the esteemed and renowned Choreographer of his own company.
- Why do you choreograph?
- This is my mission and I realized it when I was very young. As early as at the age of 13, I choreographed my first production. By the time I reached age 16, I already had a small ballet company. From the very beginning, I chose to devote my life to the gift I received from above. Choreography is the only way I can express ideas and inner experiences. If I were not able to translate my emotions into art, I would suffocate in them.
- Who were your mentors and inspirers?
- I'd name two outstanding Soviet choreographers: Yury Grigorovich and Leonid Yakobson. The former's heritage taught me how to construct the form of a ballet production, the latter's one - how to develop the artistic freedom of improvisational thinking. These are the two most important skills in art.
- What inspires you most? What drives you to create?
- I find inspiration in various things: music, great works of literature, historical materials. What is important to understand is that inspiration does not come from nowhere. A momentum requires serious preparation. One should accumulate and process an overwhelming amount of information. In life and art, there is no such thing as a free lunch.
- What was your journey that led you to create your own ballet company in 1977?
- This journey was quite long. I started staging choreographic pieces in then-called Leningrad in the second half of 1960s. I staged ballets for the Leningrad Choreography School (now Vaganova Ballet Academy), the Conservatory, the Kirov and Maly theatres. What is more, I worked a lot in films and television: I produced screen ballets. As a result, when the authorities initiated a new dance company, I was invited to lead it. Fate chose me and gave me an opportunity. I would say that it was one of those "non-coincidental coincidences," which I had faced often.
- Did you realize at the time how unique your choreographic ideas were?
- What I was doing is fulfilling myself as an artist in the first place. I wasn't wasting my time on introspecting but was working on creating new ballet art. Of course, I couldn't miss it that our theatre became a breath of fresh air for the audience - even the first production received praising reviews. It was especially popular among young people who were attracted by cutting-edge choreography and rock music (which was almost illegal at that time in the USSR). I believe that the officials who let me develop my own company, had no idea what this would lead to.
Do you feel you have changed the course of Ballet in Russia and around the World?
- Today's ballet world is so complex and diverse that it is impossible to set One Direction for its development. On one hand, I bear responsibility only for my art - the Russian psychological ballet theatre, to the development of which I dedicated years of work. On the other, I am pleased to see that my artistic principles are becoming more and more relevant for my colleagues. Look how choreographers try to create full-length ballets with a clear dramaturgy. This proves the fact Eifman Ballet chose the right approach - to search for new ways of developing the ballet art in the XXI century.
- Of all the pieces in your repertoire to date, which is your favorite, and why?
- I try not to live in the world of completed works. When I finish one ballet, I start thinking of another one immediately. It is perpetual motion, the final state of which will be a perfect ballet I hope to create once.
- Your newest work, The Pygmalion Effect, is about to premiere in the United States. Have any of your other original ballets been presented in this way? And how long has it been since you last presented a new ballet? Why did you decide upon the story of Pygmalion, and why, now?
- The world premiere of The Pygmalion Effect was held in St. Petersburg, Russia, in February. The American premiere is scheduled for May in Chicago. The productions whose world premieres took place in the USA were Don Juan, or Moliere Passions in 2001 and Musagete - a choreographic dedication to Balanchine - in 2004. The latest premiere of Eifman Ballet's new production was in April 2017, when the Company presented the revised version of Russian Hamlet. Why did I choose the story of Pygmalion? The myth about the sculptor who fell in love with a statue he carved has received a number of interpretations in the world culture. I was excited about presenting its ballet version. Also, the story gave me an opportunity to show the process of transformation of the female lead character. Of course, all transformations occur in the plane of dance.
- Could you explain your process behind the conception of a new ballet, from the original idea, choice of music, whom you choose to work with in putting it together, which dancers you will use and how you begin to piece the choreography together?
- You have named all the key steps of the process. One can spend hours talking about each of them. It is impossible to put everything into words though. The work starts with finding an idea. It is not a piece of cake to decide to what character you will dedicate your next year. When the choice is made, you dive into the world of information: books, historical documents, films. In parallel, I listen to an enormous number of music work, looking for those which I can draw inspiration from. Composers are my co-authors in the first place. When the musical score is completed (which means that the dramaturgy of a future ballet is formed) I come to the studio and start rehearsing with my dancers. It is in the studio where the choreographic score is born.
- You have been called a "philosopher choreographer." Could you expound on why that term applies to you?
- My goal is to create ballets which offer serious intellectual content and address timeless philosophical issues. I do not believe in the idea of moving for the sake of motion. In my point of view, every choreographic piece should be meaningful. More precisely - express an emotion that passed through one's mind.
- What do you hope audiences in America will glean from your newest work?
- I should think of my answer carefully because I prefer not to cultivate a specific attitude toward a new production in advance. I only hope that The Pygmalion Effect will give the audience bright and strong positive emotions which only ballet theatre is capable of producing.
- Please tell us about The Boris Eifman Dance Palace, which will be built in St. Petersburg in the near future, and what you hope to achieve with it for the future of Dance, both in Russia and globally?
- This project is around 25 years old. The concept of the Dance Palace surroundings has evolved (the latest decision made is that the Dance Palace will be surrounded by a large art park). The concept of the Dance Palace as the large international dance centre, which will represent various dance forms remains unchanged. I truly believe that in several years, Eifman Ballet will finally have its home venue. The Dance Palace will also welcome the world's best ballet companies to present their art in Russia. Such robust creative hub will give the modern ballet a momentum and contribute to the development of the actual choreographic forms of the third millennium.
A wealth of information gleaned from a true artist, who has transformed an idea, in much the same way as the mythological tale of Pygmalion, into a balletic work of Art that is sure to make an impactful and pleasureable effect on the lucky viewers.
Be sure not to miss the extraordinary premiere of this new work by Boris Eifman, a giant talent in the world of Dance!
May 24-26, 2019 in Segerstrom Hall, COSTA MESA. Tickets on sale now: