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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


It's not a play, and it's not a ballet. It's both, and it plays this week at the Et Cetera Theater.

"I call this genre 'dance play,'" said Kseniya Morshanskaya, director of "Qu'est que c'est que l'amour?" or "What Is Love?" f a show combining ballet and spoken texts about two lovers starring dancers Morshanskaya and Konstantin Sokolov, a singer and dramatic actor.

The show consists of four parts. In each, the dancers perform while a recording of text (written in the '60s by the famous Russian "poetic clown" and mime Leonid Yengibarov) read by a male actor plays offstage.

"I cross over the precipice between 'no' and 'yes,'" the Yengibarov text goes. "I'm moving along a rope made of wishes, meekness and love. It trembles and swings. Below me is a fathomless measure of loneliness."

"Yengibarov's verse about love is very intense ? that's why we used it," Morshanskaya said. "We dance to words, as if they were music ? and we use gestures as words."

In addition to the recital of the Yengibarov texts and a few French- and English-language songs, the dancers perform to a complex background of sound including the sound of ocean waves crashing on the beach, of rain and of a heartbeat.

"None of this follows Russian tradition f not theater tradition, not ballet tradition," Morshanskaya said. "We were more successful in France than we have been in Russia."

Perhaps not surprising considering Morshanskaya's training: Morshanskaya, whose parents are also dancers, studied at France's Center of Contemporary Dance.

Morshanskaya staged the ballet last year at centers of Russian culture in Brussels and Paris.

"Qu'est-que c'est que l'amour" plays at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Et Cetera Theater, located at 11 Novy Arbat. Metro Arbatskaya. Tel. 291-5070.

f Elena Ryumina