Tatyana is an extraordinary dance work that tells an intense emotional story inspired by Pushkin’s novel Eugene Onegin. This is not a work for those who prefer narrative interpretations of literature in dance. Characters and events are hinted at with telling props: Onegin, the dandy is characterized by his hat and the cane that will kill Lensky; Lensky fights the duel with a fan, which he whirls and snaps open and shut ineffectually; Tatyana’s marriage is indicated by a veil.

The first act is set around a weird tree-like structure that represents Tatyana’s home, which the cast dance on, through, along, under and around, and adds an extra physical and psychological dimension to the action. In the second act a terrifyingly high platform, the width of the stage replaces it, combined with lights that partition, structure and restructure the space. We see multiple Onegins, Tatyanas, Olgas and Lenskys; there are even two Pushkins, struggling to control the characters as they manipulate the scenery.

This work is a physical manifestation in dance of what we experience in states of love, jealousy and despair. In the first act, Tatyana whirls with excitement, or a small ronde de jambe à terre expresses a moment of hesitation, until arching upwards and backwards she casts herself out of the tree into the arms of multiple Onegins. Lensky’s anguish at Onegin’s flirtation with Olga is palpable as he writhes and swings from the tree before the duel. When he dies, bent backwards over the cane that Onegin holds horizontally behind him, he slowly rolls, branch by branch to ground level.

The pointe work in the second act liberates the dancers further, giving them a new range of upward movement and expression. Lights dividing up the space suddenly illuminate the upstage right quadrant to reveal a woman in a supported pirouette turn that seems to go on and on spinning. At one moment, Tatyana, holding herself vertically, springs backwards into Onegin’s arms only to be flung straight up like a shard.

The music, like the dancing was a daring synthesis of styles: Tchaikovsky followed by Moondog; Ceppas by Stravinsky, Riley and Prokoviev; Act II set to Rachmaninov. I would never have thought this would work, but it does, as an integral part of one of the most compelling performances that I have ever seen.

Maggie Watson

10 February 2013

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