Saint Petersburg choreographer Boris Eifman apparently does nothing small, taking the stories and movements of classical ballet, in which he’s obviously well versed, and amplifying them almost beyond recognition. Red Giselle, to be performed as the troupe’s Chicago debut, transports all the pain and passion of the 1841 original into a 20th-century story based on the travails of real-life ballerina Olga Spessivtseva, a famous interpreter of the role of Giselle. A star at the Maryinsky Theatre in the teens and early 20s, she defected in 1923 to dance with the Paris Opera and, on occasion, Diaghilev’s company. She gave her last performance at the age of 44 and moved to America, where a few years later she had a nervous breakdown and was committed to a mental institution; she spent two decades there before she was moved to a utopian community in upstate New York, where she died in 1991. The first act of Eifman’s ballet is set in Petrograd, the second in Paris; his thesis is that Spessivtseva was brutalized by the advent of communism, and specifically by a KGB agent who desired her, yet she was no happier or more fulfilled in the West than she would have been in the Soviet Union. Eifman makes her sensitive artist’s soul visible in a flexibility that’s almost horrifying, a spine so facile that a back bend seems about to break her in two; he reveals the coarseness of her KGB lover by having him pull her to him by throwing a leg around her waist. There’s also a wildly beautiful scene in a Paris nightclub that gives the steps of ballroom dancing a kind of grandeur. Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 and 8, and Sunday at 2 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, Chicago; $25-$55. Call 312-902-1500 for tickets, 312-922-2110, ext. 4, for rates on groups of ten or more.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nina Alovert.