Monday, 23 January 2017

Skeaping's Giselle

Engish National Ballet Giselle Coliseum 22 Jan 2017

Giselle may have been premiered on 28 June 1841 but it is no museum piece. Feudal landowners may be a bit thin on the ground these days but there is no shortage of spoilt wealthy young (and not so young) men who behave just like Albrecht. Nor, sadly, is there a shortage of women who are hurt by them, just as much as Giselle. They may not stab themselves with swords but they suffer in other ways and sometimes their suffering can be fatal.  There is no need to reimagine Giselle.  Leave that to the audience. That's why we are there.

In contrast to Akram Khn's Giselle, Mary Skeaping's keeps Adam's score and what we believe to have been Corelli and Perrot's choreography as varied by Petipa and sets the ballet in the German countryside. I find that helpful for then I can concentrate on the interpretation.  There are lots of possibilities. As Lauretta Summerscales says in her video on how she interprets the iconic role:
"If I do it 50 times, I'm sure I'd still find in that 50th time something new."
If one ballerina who dances Giselle regularly can conjure up her character in 50 different ways, how many more interpretations must there be for those who watch different productions or even the same production with different casts?

Although I bought my ticket before I knew who was dancing, I was glad to see that my Giselle today was Elisa Badenes. I cannot recall ever seeing her before because she dances with the Stuttgart Ballet so I looked her up and found that she had advanced from corps de ballet to principal in a very short time. On the way to London, I tweeted:
She did not disappoint me.  She is a beautiful dancer, graceful. and aetherial. Her arms appear as subtle and as soft as gossamer in the wind.

Her Albrecht was Cesar Corrales who was a thrill to watch. Charming and athletic I can see why Giselle begged clemency from Myrtha and danced with him to keep him alive.  In other productions, I feel Albrecht gets off lightly compared to Hilarion, but not this time.  His jumps were thrilling - especially some spectacular entrechats just before the bell struck 4 where his legs interweaved like shuttles.

Hilarion, danced by Fabian Reimair, projected possessiveness, meanness and jealousy as well as recklessness.  For once I felt he had what was coming to him as Myrtha's wilis tossed him off stage.

As for Myrtha, she was portrayed steely and icily but with authority by Alison McWhinney. This was the first time I had noticed her in a major role but I shall certainly look out for this impressive dancer in future. Her attendants, Zulma and Moyna, danced by Rino Kanehara and Adela Ramirez, were splendid too,

The English National Ballet Philharmonic under Alex Ingram played magnificently from the opening bars of the overture. Adam's score needs an orchestra like them. David Walker's sets and costumes were gorgeous. Alex Ingram's lighting - particularly the flashes at the start of act II - conjured menace convincingly.

Altogether, one of the best performances of Giselle I have ever seen - and I have watched quite a few over the decades.

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