Rodin at the London Coliseum
St Petersburg’s Eifman ballet is in town to showcase two performances: Anna Karenina and Rodin, of which the latter premiered yesterday evening at the Coliseum. Inspired by the life of 19th century French sculptor Auguste Rodin, the narrative depicts the growing acceptance of his work, which deployed realism while diverting from the traditional use of mythology. The plot explores the tension between his relationship with long-term companion Rose Beuret, and his artistic and sexual relationship with his muse and fellow sculptor Camille Claudel, as well as the latter’s descent into mental illness.
The tormenting nature of this mental illness is partly conveyed through the dimly lit set; the dramatic use of spotlights highlights the interiority that Claudel experiences. The physical representation of psychological torment is, however, slightly hackneyed. The ballerina jerks about wildly, her hair loosening and facial expression contorting in a somewhat broad portrayal of madness.
Zinovy Margolin’s set design is sparse. The plain studio setting is equipped with a frame upon which dancers’ bodies hang like recently-made sculptures. A spinning table is used for works in progress, adequately conveying the seriousness with which Rodin approached his work. In order to depict Rodin’s ability to create realistic forms, Eifman choreographs scenes where dancers are thrown onto the spinning table, and their legs and arms manipulated into provocatively splayed positions.
At one point, a mass of grey bodies is presented as a solid clump of clay, which the lead dancer triumphantly moulds into a series of strong, male forms and Claudel drapes with cloth. It is a breathtaking feat. He explains: “To turn a moment frozen into an irrepressible sensuous stream of body movements is what I was striving for.”
Rodin was at the London Coliseum for one night only. For further information visit the show’s website here.