Jungle reviews: Tatyana by Deborah Colker

Last Thursday, the Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker returned to the Barbican to present its latest show: Tatyana – inspired by Alexander Pushkin’s masterpiece Eugene Onegin. Playing to at a packed theatre, the Olivier award-winning choreographer Deborah Colker surprised the audience with her radical and contemporary interpretation of Pushkin’s classic ballet, by making use of a creative set, innovative features, minimalist costumes and visual effects, drawing from classical music – Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Prokofiev – and contemporary Brazilian music, to create a wonderfully eclectic, postmodern piece.

Pushkin’s classic novel tells the tragic love story of Tatyana, a carefree, country beauty, who falls in love with a privileged and bored young man – Eugene – who rejects her at first. In the first act, to depict the countryside, the set comprised a huge wooden structure shaped like a tree that could be moved, which was perfectly suited for the climactic moments of the ballet, serving as a base for wild movements that occasionally recalled parkour leaps.

The stunning set was conceived by Gringo Cardia, one of Brazil’s most popular designers. Cardia worked with Deborah Colker during the conception of Cirque du Soleil’s OVO, in 2008, and has been part of the dance company since its inception in 1994.

Tatyana is definitely the most mature work by Deborah Colker and, this time, she has decided to appear on stage along with an imaginary Pushkin. Their appearances on stage as narrators bring tremendous energy to the production, as they seem to direct the dancers during the show, both dressed in black, contrasting with the minimalist but colourful costumes of the other ballet dancers. The Tatyana’s costumes bring a timeless feeling to the piece, as it is not clear to the spectators which era the story was set in.

The second act is pure dystopia. By moving screens on the stage and using innovative projection techniques, with a deft plot twist, the tables are turned. When Eugene falls madly in love with Tatyana – now married to a general; the show darkens. The moving screens create a 3D image, and the lights from the projector keep moving in a ballet that sometimes resembles a TV screen playing a Stanley Kubrick film.

In essence, experimentalism has always been a trademark of Colker’s work, and now she has mastered it. By detaching herself from conventions, Colker unveils her vision of Pushkin’s novel: presenting an encounter between movement, dance and literature, with no fixed rules, which allows us to step outside of our rigid, rule-driven lives for a moment. It is on at the Barbican until Sunday. Don’t miss it.

“Tatyana” by Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker,
31Jan – 9 Feb, 7.45pm,  £16-30
Barbican Theatre
Barbican Centre, EC2Y
www.barbican.org.uk

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