Auditorium Theatre Presents EIFMAN BALLET’S RED GISELLE Review – Violence, Madness—Yet Ever Graceful

Giselle’s World

Russian émigré Giselle (Ballerina Maria Abashova) is at a Paris soirée joining in on the Jazz Age joviality when a flashback suddenly transforms the dancing flappers and gents around her into the menacing mobs of the violent Russia she had left behind.

We feel the same jolt that she does—watching a re-mount of the mob’s blunt and muscular choreography by the corps de ballet, but this time, when they are dressed in stylish finery.

Welcome to Giselle’s world—where her passion to dance plays out against a violent Russian revolution that entwines her with a sadistic Commissar, makes her witness the torture and death of her devoted mentor, and then sets her adrift in a world where she cannot find the connections she craves, eventually leaving her in madness.

Eifman Ballet RED GISELLE
Ballerina Maria Abashova as Giselle Photo: Evgeny Matveev

Brilliant choreography, flawless dancers

With characteristically brilliant choreography by Boris Eifman that weaves together music from four composers (Tchaikovsky, Schnittke, Bizet, and Adam) to punctuate the vast emotional landscape of this story, the flawless dancers of Eifman Ballet keep us riveted.     Their grace simply astounds. At one moment, when Abashova is swept up to Sergey Volobuev’s shoulder and perches through his turns, this writer gasped and then looked around wondering why there wasn’t an ocean of similar murmurs throughout the audience. It seems there just isn’t much time to dwell on any one or other seamless move—they are non-stop from curtain rise to fall—from corps de ballet to soloists, all.

Abashova’s strength and grace is unrelenting.

Eifman Ballet RED GISELLE
Photo: Evgeny Matveev
Eifman Ballet RED GISELLE
Photo: Evgeny Matveev
Eifman Ballet RED GISELLE
Photo: Evgeny Matveev

She finds her equal in two male soloists—Sergey Volobuev as the Commissar and Oleg Markov as the teacher. Somehow, Volobuev is able to convey both his brutality and the magnetism that draws Giselle in. We love to watch him. We can’t take our eyes off him. His rippling black leather coat,( Set and Costumes: Vyacheslav Okunev), that becomes a pas de deux prop at times for him and Abashova, shines and ripples as an echo of his body. As we watch Oleg Markov transform from the supercilious hard task master teacher to the helpless torture victim of the mob, we see the arc of the story in his dancing. This is Drama with a capital “D”.

Eagerly Awaited Return to Auditorium Theatre

For those of us who have waited eagerly for the Eifman Ballet’s return to Chicago there is likely a back-of-mind concern that the troupe couldn’t possibly live up to the high bar they had set before. Have no such worries! Eifman has chosen to tell a story that showcases his choreographic talent to convey detailed painting of emotional landscapes. Every detail has been thoroughly considered to add to the emotional power of the story—from artful straight jacket costumes, to a glass cocoon where mad Giselle is imprisoned reminding some of us of Sylvia Plath’s famed bell jar, to the sculptural poses of the corps de ballet that linger as freeze frames of a scene’s end, to gestural echoes used like punctuation throughout dance sequences as in their coda.

In a word, superb.


Remaining Performances—

Saturday, May 20, 7:30 PM
Sunday, May 21, 2:00 PM


Auditorium Theatre
50 East Congress Parkway



To obtain tickets visit the Auditorium Theatre box office, call 312 – 341 – 2300 or visit the Auditorium Theatre website.    


PHOTOS: Evgeny Matveev

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