Repertoire / Beyond Sin

A ballet by Boris Eifman
Based on The Brothers Karamazov
novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Music: Richard Wagner, Modest Mussorgsky,
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sets and costumes: Vyacheslav Okunev
Light: Boris Eifman

Premiere: April 29, 2013

Running time: 2 hours, with one interval

“Man is a mystery. It needs to be unravelled, and if you spend your whole life unravelling it, don't say that you've wasted time. I am studying that mystery because I want to be a human being.” These words of Fyodor Dostoevsky perfectly match the task of describing the ballet life of Boris Eifman who in each of his works intently and earnestly studies the most complicated aspects of life and spirit.

The Beyond Sin ballet is a new choreographic interpretation of Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov. By having fundamentally rethought and reworked his own earlier world renowned production The Karamazovs of 1995, also based on this timeless masterpiece of Russian literature, Boris Eifman created an emotionally rich and full of philosophy psychodrama ballet.

Beyond Sin is a modern in technical and artistic-expressive respects scenic creation which broaches age-old “accursed” questions. In the context of the almost universal value crisis of the early XXI century, the choreographer turned to the non-negotiable, secure ethical foundations and staged a ballet on the subjects of theomachy and God-seeking, of faithlessness and faith, of the nature of sin and of spiritual salvation.

The Brothers Karamazov novel was the epitome of Dostoevsky’s creative development, the acme of the philosophic investigation carried out by this colossal and restless mind throughout his life. For the last two decades, observing the march of the contemporary history of our country, I have kept getting convinced again and again of the all-time relevance of this work of literature regarded as the spiritual will and testament of the great writer.

Expanding the potential of body language as a way of exploring the inner world of man, we offer our vision of the key ideas of the novel. Beyond Sin both carries on and develops the tradition of the psychological ballet art and strives to accomplish another equally complicated task – to create a choreographic art equivalent to the subject so masterfully investigated by Dostoevsky – that of the racking burden of destructive passions and of bad heredity.

The Beyond Sin ballet is an attempt to study the origins of the moral catastrophe of the Karamazovs, to understand the primal essence of the ‘excessively broad’ human nature, the mystery of the inner life of human hearts and souls where ‘God and Devil are fighting.’ Having, on principle, rejected the idea of putting on stage all story lines of the novel, I focused on the process of creating choreographic insights into the souls of the main characters beset with internal conflicts.

In The Brothers Karamazov there is expressed a pivotal idea: if there is no God then ‘all things are lawful.’ Our modern times could be comprehensively described with a different expression: ‘God exists, and yet all things are lawful.’ For this very reason time is now ripe to rethink the issues and problems which haunted Fyodor Dostoevsky and his heroes. A search for the ways to the happiness of mankind, the price to be paid for such a harmony, the power of vice and sin over man, the nature of true faith – one who seriously ponders over these topics simply cannot cherish hopes for attaining absolute truth. But touching upon them we are step by step moving toward a better understanding of ourselves in this imperfect and ever-changing world.”

Boris Eifman

Act I

For all the multitude of differences which divide them, Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha are linked to each other by invisible threads: for the ‘stinking, sinful’ blood of their father, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, runs in their veins. The monk Alyosha tries in vain to soften the impact of passions which have got out of hand. He is an observer of the bitter rivalry between his father and brother Dmitri for the favors of Grushenka, of his father's constant drunken orgies, of his willingness to entangle everyone in a sin of lust.

A series of scandals is replaced by rare moments of peace, in that the brothers’ hearts are filled with shrill image of the mother, but then feud is erupted with renewed force. But not only is Alyosha incapable of helping his nearest and dearest, he too discovers within himself to an increasing degree the despicable traits of ‘Karamazovshchina’.

The whole family is drawn into the battle for Grushenka between Fyodor Pavlovich and Dmitri. Fyodor Pavlovich is killed... and Dmitri is accused of his father's murder.


Act II

Ivan and Alyosha argue endlessly about the meaning of existence and about human soul. Their argument assumes material form in the figures of the Grand Inquisitor and of Christ, who has come back to the sinful world, in the legend composed by Ivan. The Inquisitor-Ivan asserts that only tyranny can give people ‘weak creatures such as they have been created, peaceful, humble happiness.’ But Christ-Alyosha wishes to free people of their fear and to provide them with ‘a free heart so that they may determine what is good and what is evil.’

Grushenka is covered by the sacrificial impulse and desire for the complete purification, she comes to the prison to Dmitri. Innocently convicted, he is hardly going through a separation from his beloved.

Ivan is lacerated by pangs of conscience: he accuses himself of having harbored a wish to kill his father. Reality and fantasy become confused in his mind…

Ivan and Alyosha come to visit Dmitri. Here, in the prison bars, the brothers cognize kinship.

Dmitri has dreams about wedding with Grushenka, but it’s impossible to take her in his arms – the ruthless awakening comes.

Alyosha is unable to watch human suffering and, driven by love for his fellow men, he frees the convicts incarcerated in ‘The House of the Dead’. Their heads reeling from the belief that ‘all things are lawful’ to them, the convicts destroy everything on their path.

The family come to a dreadful end: Fyodor Pavlovich is murdered, Dmitri is in jail, Ivan goes off his head, Alyosha is made responsible for the fate of numerous innocent victims... But, however far sinful man may fall, he may be saved if he repents for his sins.