5 Reasons You Need to See Anna Karenina

Posted on 24 September 2019 By Rose Mulready

Sexual tension, scandal, not one but two love triangles, ecstasy, grief, hallucinations, suicide: Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is a rich subject for ballet, and Yuri Possokhov's new production does justice to the grand ambition of the novel. Here are five reasons why this is the must-see production of 2020.


The story of Anna, whose passion for the handsome and faithless Vronsky destroys her life, burns up the stage in a series of rapturous and despairing pas de deux.

Joffrey Ballet's Alberto Velazquez and Victoria Jaiani. Photography Cheryl Mann


The costumes by veteran theatre designer Tom Pye capture the elegance of Imperial Russian society with luxurious fabrics and jewel tones.

Joffrey Ballet's Yoshihisa Arai and Nicole Ciapponi. Photography Cheryl Mann


Chicago's PBS station, WWTW, called Possokhov's Anna Karenina "A magnificent classical ballet in the guise of a great work of modern cinema." Pye's opulent yet minimal sets and projections by Finn Ross (Harry Potter and The Cursed Child) - which include footage of the dancers taken backstage in real time - conjure ballrooms, bedrooms, a race track and that fateful train station, lending a filmic scale and atmosphere to this immersive piece of theatre.

Joffrey Ballet's Yoshihisa Arai. Photography Cheryl Mann


A very human heroine, Anna holds our sympathy even as she flounders into disaster. She adores, she suffers, she is torn between her life and the love of her life - no wonder actors from Greta Garbo to Vivien Leigh to Keira Knightly have been attracted to the role. We can't wait to see our brilliant dancers embody Anna.

Joffrey Ballet's Alberto Velazquez and Victoria Jaiani. Photography Cheryl Mann


Teaming up with the Joffrey Ballet to co-produce Anna Karenina meant that the ballet could have specially commissioned music by multi-award-winning composer Ilya Demutsky. Inspired by Tolstoy, Demutsky has created a sweeping, textured score with all the scale and grandeur of his countrymen Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. A mezzo soprano will appear at key moments to amplify Anna's emotion through song.

Joffrey Ballet's Victoria Jaiani, Fabrice Calmels and artists of Joffrey Ballet. Photography Cheryl Mann