The sculptor Auguste Rodin could make clay evoke the weight and power of flesh.
In Boris Eifman’s ballet melodrama, the artist hero pulls living dancers into familiar sculpted shapes, but only creates a glib bendiness. It’s amazing how often this Rodin needs to pull his scantily-clad subjects’ legs behind their heads.
Eifman is a huge hit in his native Russia, with state support and his own school. His ballets are big, broad and acrobatic, full of tortured but very flexible souls. This time, he takes on the story of Rodin and Camille Claudel, his troubled muse, apprentice and lover, who was committed to an asylum.
As Rodin, the tireless Oleg Gabyshev partners Lyubov Andreyeva’s touching Camille in a succession of gymnastic duets. As Rodin’s other lover, Yulia Manjeles watches from the sidelines in seething jealousy. The recorded music is a grab-bag of Ravel, Saint-Saëns and Massenet.
There are one or two strong images – the asylum inmates pacing in a driven circle, a tango for Camille – but Eiman’s choreography is dominated by deep squats and splayed legs. A busy ensemble play supporting roles. Whether they’re art students, peasants, cancan dancers or a horde of critics, they treat this as the gurning Olympics.
Eifman Ballet season runs until 19 April. Box office 020 7845 9300.