Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Before I actually talk about Giselle let me just point you to this article. Now I like bats. I think they're neat. But if I looked down and found one nestled up to me? I think I might be less calm than this girl. Of course I have far, far less for the bat to nestle up to. Anyway...

I was really excited to go to see Giselle, partially because the photos I've seen of it have always been so beautiful and partially because I love Julie Kent's dancing and haven't seen her in anything at ABT this season. And the evening got off to a humorous start for me when I overheard a man near me asking his companion, "so this is like the Nutcracker?" And when she told him no, "well I mean the guys wear tights, right?" Heh.

I feel like the excitement was well deserved too, because I really enjoyed the whole ballet. The dancing in the first act was so delightful when it was meant to be happy and I thought that Kent, with her delicacy and beautiful arms really made me believe in the frail village girl she was playing. Stiefel was also believable as a noble in disguise--never really a peasant but just convincing enough. And he's such a fantastic dancer that he's just a pleasure to watch. I also liked Sascha Radetsky's angry Hilarion and Misty Copeland in the peasant pas de deux. Carlos Lopez, also in the peasant pas de deux, was exciting but there was something that felt just off about his dancing in moments and I can't put my finger on what it was. And now I have to confess that I've always kind of rolled my eyes at the idea of being moved to tears by these old ballets but when Kent died I did well up a bit (so fine, I was wrong). Her mad scene feels like a shtick of sorts but it's a beautiful and moving one. What I really got to me though was Susan Jones as Giselle's mother. Her grief came through so clearly.

I did wish that I knew what all the mime meant. I mean, things like, "I love you," and, "I don't love you," came through pretty clearly and I certainly picked up on "dance" but during the scene where Giselle's mother has the vision of daughter's death I would never have known what was going on if I hadn't read the synopsis first. Nutcracker man had not, and during the intermission I overheard him saying, upon finding it, "reading this probably would have been helpful." Yeah. I've been there.

The second act was beautiful. The only dancer I didn't particularly enjoy was Michelle Wiles as Myrta, who seemed stiff to me. I wonder if her dancing just isn't to my taste or if I would enjoy her more in more modern works or what? That's a minor quibble though. I think part of what I liked so much about Giselle was that instead of seeming like the narrative was a cobbled together excuse for dancing or silly Orientalism or merely a thin outline, Giselle is actually about the dancing and winds up instead feeling like a fairy tale. The dancing is still paramount, yes, but the story is a part of that. I think that's where the emotional connection comes from; these characters are people and their lives matter. Giselle retains enough of her humanity and so she still loves Albrecht and saves him. It's more interesting to me than something like, say, Bayadere where Nikiya and Solor are reunited after divine intervention and the destruction of the temple. Telling a human story only works though, because the dancers succeed in conveying the story and their humanity.

As we were leaving I overheard a man saying, "That was the greatest ballet I've ever been to. It's the only ballet, but it was the greatest." Funny how that works.

Picture stolen from the New York Times slideshow. Consider it a teaser and go here to see the whole thing.

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