The Pygmalion Effect takes the classic makeover myth to the ballroom | Dance | Chicago Reader

The Pygmalion Effect takes the classic makeover myth to the ballroom 

Eifman Ballet views the transformation through the lens of dance.

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Souheil Michael Khoury

Eifman Ballet returns to the Auditorium May 17-19 for the North American premiere of artistic director Boris Eifman's The Pygmalion Effect. The latest in the choreographer's spectacular psychological ballets—and his first comedy—reimagines the myth of the sculptor who falls in love with his work of art into a story of a ballroom champion who teaches an awkward young woman to dance.

"The story of Pygmalion drew my attention because it shows the process of a character's evolution. In our case, the transformation occurs through the lens of dance (and not phonetics, as it was in the play by Shaw [George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, which was adapted into the musical My Fair Lady]," says Eifman. "I compare myself to Pygmalion. Just like clay takes shape in hands of a sculptor, my dancers transform working in a ballet studio with me. They are my 'creatures' to some extent. This does not mean that I consider my dancers raw material. My goal is to make them co-authors."

Eifman views his oeuvre as the development of "the art of psychological ballet theatre," in opposition to "making a set of movements to music." "I find the divide between dance and the basic principles of theatrical art that occurred in the twentieth century a complete disaster," he remarks. "Choreographic abstraction is not able to explore and represent the inner world of a person and create art [out] of strong emotions," he says, noting the absence of support for complex dramaturgical investigation in dance in the present day.   v

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