Boris Eifman says every image in Rodin has to have a concept and focus.
RODIN choreographed by Boris Eifman, presented by the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg at the Sony Centre (1 Front East). Opens tonight (Thursday, May 23) and runs to Saturday (May 25), 7:30 pm. $55-$145. 1-855-872-7669. See listing.
Sculpture might not seem the most obvious art form to inspire choreography, but Boris Eifman is proving that notion wrong. His ballet about the life and work of French sculptor Auguste Rodin has been getting raves since it debuted in late 2011.
"Choreographers and sculptors both dedicate their lives to the human body," says Eifman on the phone from Chicago, where the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg is in the midst of a North American tour that arrives at the Sony Centre this weekend.
"The human body is a unique instrument to express emotions. Artists like Rodin were interested in a specific moment in the body's movement. For me, it's important to show the dynamic of the human body leading up to that moment."
One remarkable still from the production shows Rodin (Oleg Gabyshev, who recently won the Golden Mask Russian National Theatre Award for his performance) and his apprentice/mistress/muse, Camille Claudel (Lyubov Andreeva), manipulating bodies around iron bars to create a sculptural work. Limbs appear contorted, twisted and splayed.
"Every image in my productions has to have a concept and focus, so of course my dancers must have not only technical skills but the ability to act and express emotion," he says. "They have to get at the emotional and psychological aspect of each role."
The ballet focuses on the tumultuous affair between Rodin and Claudel. It also touches on Rose Beuret, the seamstress and model Rodin lived with for nearly half a century before finally marrying her near the end of his life.
"Beuret was unique," says Eifman. "It was like she existed in a waiting room for the big artist, anticipating that moment when he'd turn to her and no one else."
Eifman puts a lot of himself into his works. Besides choreographing Rodin, he's contributed to the lighting design and the soundtrack, which draws on the music of French composers like Ravel, Saint-Saëns and Massenet.
"From the very first moment I started the work, I was involved in every aspect of it," he says. "I'm the creator and the artist behind Rodin. It's not a one-man show, but there's got to be someone responsible for the thing."
Eifman comes from a country rich in ballet tradition. But he doesn't feel the weight of that dance history on his shoulders.
"I don't worry about my colleagues or my predecessors, because my theatre is unique - it's a theatre of one choreographer: me," he says boldly.
"Of course, to keep the company alive I need to work hard to create the next ballet. Each one has to be better than the previous one. And I want my company of dancers to develop in all aspects. You could say I'm not competing with my colleagues, but with myself."