Boris Eifman - Artistic Director of St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet
People’s Artist of Russia, the Laureate of the State Prize of the Russian Federation, the laureate of the Golden Mask and the Golden Soffit awards, the holder of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 2nd class.
Boris Eifman, the founder and creator of his own theater, his own style, and his own ballet universe, who is called “one of the leading choreographers in the world” and an “amazing magician of the theater”, was born in 1946 in Siberia, into a family that was connected neither with ballet nor the theatre. From early childhood, however, he wanted to express his feelings and his thoughts in body language, in dance. He himself would later say, “For me, ballet is more than a profession. It is a means of existence, my mission on this earth. Using its resources, I am compelled to convey what is given to me from on high. Most likely, I would simply suffocate on my emotions if I didn’t have the possibility of expressing them through art. For me, choreography is art that is deeply religious, in the broadest sense of the word.”
The innate sense of movement and the “instinct to compose” brought him to the Leningrad Conservatory, where he studied in the Choreography Department, and then to the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, where he worked for ten years as a choreographer, composing new works for student performances. Finally, in 1977, he formed his own ballet ensemble. This is the moment when the Eifman story began, as, with his talent, with his blood and sweat, with his energy, dedicating himself a full twenty four hours a day, he began to create his own theatre.
Eifman brilliantly combined cutting-edge achievements in the world of ballet with what he learned in the academic school of classical Russian choreography, to which he traces his roots. “What I do can be called the dance of emotions, free dance, a new language, in which classical ballet, modern dance, ecstatic impulses and many other things are interwoven…,” he said at the time. His dancers, who had an exclusively academic grounding, had to acquire a new vocabulary of body movement. It was a completely different kind of choreography, whose fundamental principle came into being as the troupe was formed by Eifman.
Eifman Ballet 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.
The company’s first performances such as Two-Voice and Boomerang brought success and stirred intense interest of the audience; ballet critics began arguing about new tendencies in the Russian ballet. Advocates of the traditional ballet school, however, were rather reluctant to acknowledge the young choreographer’s authority. Eifman’s novelty in how he chose literary basis and music for his ballets, the audacity of the body movement vocabulary secured for him the reputation of “a choreographic dissident”.
In late 70s – early 80s Eifman’s theatre is working out its own individual approach to repertoire formation. More and more new ballets based on the world classical literature appear on the playbill. The choreographer and his company, characterised by an outstanding dance intellect, explore new genres. Boris Eifman creates performances whose distinguishing feature is the strikingly sharp choreographic patterns, intended to express the fiery passions of ballets’ characters: The Duel, The Idiot, The Mad March Day, or the Marriage of Figaro, The Legend, The Twelfth Night, Master and Margarita, Murderers etc.
Today St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet is renowned among ballet lovers in Asia, Europe, the Americas and in Australia for such ballets as Tchaikovsky; I, Don Quixote; Red Giselle, Russian Hamlet, Anna Karenina, The Seagull, Onegin, Rodin, Beyond Sin, Requiem and Up & Down. These works were generally recognised. Not only they represent the highest artistic level of achievements of the contemporary Russian ballet, but also turn the audience to the immortal spiritual heritage of Russian and world culture that inspired the choreographer and his dancers.
Boris Eifman’s endeavour to engage his spectators in the infinite world of human passions, to form a spiritual liaison with the audience, to amaze viewers by the brilliance and dynamism of his plastique – all this has ensured a decades-long success of Eifman Ballet’s performances at leading venues around the globe.
Boris Eifman is a philosopher choreographer. He is earnestly concerned with the problems of today, with the secrets of creativity. The choreographer speaks openly with his audience about the complicated and dramatic aspects of human life; he defines his genre as “psychological ballet”. The New York Times calls Boris Eifman the leader among living choreographers: “The ballet world in search of a major choreographer need search no more. He is Boris Eifman.”
The company is distinguished by its brilliant technique, unique dedication and high onstage intelligence. Today excellent dancers, winners of international ballet contests and laureates of the Russian Government prizes in the field of culture, holders of the prestigious Golden Mask and Golden Soffit awards, implement Boris Eifman’s ideas: Oleg Gabyshev, Dmitry Fisher, Nina Zmievets, Lyubov Andreyeva, Anastasia Sitnikova, Sergey Volobuev and others.
An important period in the company’s life began in 2011, when the Government of St. Petersburg took a decision to launch the construction of the Boris Eifman Dance Academy – a project originally initiated by the choreographer himself. In September 2013 the Academy announced the start of its first academic year.
Another Eifman-initiated ballet institution is to be built and opened in St. Petersburg in the near future. It is the Boris Eifman Dance Palace envisioned by Boris Eifman as a new world center of dance arts.
Forming an original ballet repertoire of modern Russia based upon the rich traditions of Russian psychological theatre, along with searching for and developing new forms of choreography of the XXI century are among the key priorities within the artistic mission of Boris Eifman and his brilliant company.