Boris Eifman returns to Chicago for the fourth consecutive year with an evening-length ballet that’s a departure for him: the two main characters in Who’s Who are not the larger-than-life historical or literary figures so well suited to his larger-than-life choreography. Where other Eifman dances have featured Hamlet, Tchaikovsky, Don Juan, Moliere, and famous ballerina Olga Spessivtseva, this one focuses on two regular guys, Alex and Max, former dancers with the Russian Imperial Theater who leave the mother country after the revolution of 1917 to find work in the United States. What connects this work with Eifman’s others is his focus on artists and a wish to capture a historical moment. A spokesman for the company, based in Saint Petersburg, has said that the idea for the ballet came after September 11, and that the choreographer wanted to bring “something light, funny, more optimistic to the U.S.” The plot is derived partly from the film Some Like It Hot: failing to find work in a ballet company, Alex and Max disguise themselves as women and get jobs dancing in a nightclub. In another departure, Eifman uses jazz–Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Scott Joplin–though two dream sequences are set to classical pieces by Samuel Barber and Rachmaninoff. The piece is also said to incorporate American styles of dance and movement–jazz and modern, acrobatics–though truth be told, Eifman has never been a straight ballet choreographer. I was able to see only a few moments of Who’s Who on video, but it appeared to have Eifman’s usual grandeur. That should be a good thing–unless his supersized interpretations come to seem vulgar in this more realistic pop-culture context. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-902-1500; 312-922-2110, ext. 4, for groups of ten or more. Through March 23: Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $37-$67.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Valentin Baranovsky.