Dance review: Tatyana at the Barbican

PUBLISHED: 15:45 11 February 2013 | UPDATED: 15:45 11 February 2013

Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker perform Tatyana. Picture: Walter Carvalho

Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker perform Tatyana. Picture: Walter Carvalho


Deborah Colker’s Brazilian company presents original take on Alexander Pushkin’s novel Eugene Onegin

Russian romance sweeps the stage at the Barbican in this compelling two-act contemporary dance piece from Brazilian troupe Comphania de Dance Deborah Colker.

Tatyana is the lovelorn heroine from Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin’s 1832 novel about a narcissistic nobleman who leaves his life of leisure in St Petersburg for a country castle and breaks country girl Tatyana’s heart before killing his sometime friend, the poet Lensky, over a flirtation with Lensky’s fiancé and Tatyana’s sister, Olga.

This would seem straightforward enough but read the programme first as the four protagonists are each danced by four dancers in identical costumes, and Pushkin himself is played by (Dielson Pessoa), looking like a blonde rockstar.

The collective approach engenders mixed results: the impact of Lensky’s death is lost in the swirl, but when the multiple married Tatyanas ethereally take the stage the dazzling effect heightens her emotional entrapment and perhaps by analogy that of other ladies in a similar predicament.

As the first female director for Cirque du Soleil, Deborah Colker is adept at showcasing performers’ agility and their acrobatic power is given full rein as they leap from branch to bough across the large wooden tree that dominates the stage in the first act.

The antiquated and the new combine to great effect: the female dancers barely take a breath from performing acrobatic contortions to don their pointe shoes and get classical. Tatyana’s ill-fated love letter to Onedin is written with a quill but when it is ripped apart later the shreds of paper are represented by squares of neon blue light.

The score is an effective combination of Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and electronic music.

Whilst casting multiple dancers as the lead characters dilutes the impact of events, this is a thought-provoking and original show. Well worth seeing.

* Tatyana was at the Barbican Theatre in Silk Street, EC2, from January 31 to February 9.

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