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Flash 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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