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Review 2, 9-16: "Onegin" in Siberia
Lackluster Choreography sinks "Pushkin Group"
By Corinne Imberski
Copyright 2004 Corinne Imberski
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SANTA FE -- The title
character in Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin" states, "In all things change
is needed / On me ballets have lost their hold / Didelot himself
now leaves me cold." Saying that I was left cold by the Pushkin
Group's September 4 performance of Vasily Medvedev's 1999 "Onegin"
would be too harsh; rather I was left feeling lukewarm. Despite
some stunningly hot dancing moments delivered by a few of the principal
performers -- from the Maryinsky (formerly Kirov) Ballet, Royal
Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, and the National Theater Brno, according
to the program -- and the corps, also from Brno, Medvedev's unimaginative,
uninspiring choreography just couldn't produce enough heat for the
Santa Fe Opera House performance.
Medvedev picked out
most of the important narrative moments to highlight in his choreography,
but I think other choreographers could transfer the story of "Onegin"
without losing the soul of Pushkin's text. What I found missing
from most sections of the ballet was the tension and agony that
permeates Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin." For example when Onegin dances
with Olga, who is betrothed to Lensky, in order to get back at Lensky
over a petty issue, Lensky's extreme jealousy seems unfounded. Onegin
and Olga participate in a chaste dance sequence that does not seem
to warrant Lensky's proposal for a duel to the death. The role of
Lensky was danced and acted with total conviction by Igor Kolb of
the Maryinsky, but the choreography did not support the character's
actions. Medvedev also misses when he tries to depict the burgeoning
passion of Tatyana for Onegin (the Royal Ballet's Vyacheslav Samodurov).
Here's how Pushkin tells it, in an exchange between Tatyana and
her nanny: "Oh, Nan, old Nan, I'm so downhearted, I'm not myself,
dear, all upset; I feel like sobbing, crying, maybe." "You must
be taken sick, my baby." "I am in love." Medvedev treats Tatyana's
love for Onegin as puppy love. She is seen smiling and looking dreamily
into the distance. Because I didn't see this desperate love in Tatyana's
movement, I found her later rejection by Onegin to be not as heartbreaking
as the Pushkin prose suggests. Familiar with Pushkin's text, I had
anticipated a tension-filled evenign of unrequited love, and Medvedev
did not deliver.
The most convincing
choreography came at the end of the ballet when Onegin declares
his love for Tatyana many years after Tatyana declared her love
for him. Medvedev filled their duet with movement that brought them
close together and then as far apart as possible while still touching,
but without really letting Tatyana abandon herself completely to
Onegin's embrace. The tension between them could be fully experienced
in these moments. Especially memorable was a passage in which Onegin
lifted Tatyana under her arms, letting her chest and neck open in
abandonment and vulnerability while her legs rubbed against each
other in tense anguish as if they alone knew that their love was
not to be. It was at this moment that I could believe in the tragedy
of the story.
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