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Pacific Northwest Ballet


Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Reviving Giselle" - Elegant Gesture

Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) is presenting a "revival" of "Giselle" (June 2011, at the Seattle Center's McCaw Hall). This latest version is staged by PNB's Artistic Director, Peter Boal, using Doug Fullington's reconstruction, Marian Smith as Historical Advisor, and notes from diverse places like the Russian Imperial Court, composer Adolphe Adam, and choreographers Jean Corelli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa. It is Petipa's choreography that has most control over contemporary staging of this ballet and this historical staging is not drastically different from that, but it depends much more on gesture to carry the narrative. Especially gesture by the principals like the deceitful Prince Albrecht (danced by Batkhurel Bold), the naive and guileless Giselle (Lesley Rausch), her would be lover Hilarion (Jeffrey Stanton), Giselle's mother (Melanie Skinner), Albrecht's fiancee Bathilde (Laura Gilbreath), and Queen of the Wili's (Lindsi Dec). In the first act the drama of love and betrayal play out until Giselle's death from a broken heart. The second act is about dancing in the purest Romantic form. The haunting music which defines Giselle in Act I moves into adagio form in Act II, as does her dance of mourning for Albrecht as she pleads his case, before the Wilis try to dance him to his death. At times in that act Rausch is totally still, in lovely Romantic poses, at other times she is lifted high by Bold in ways she seems to soar.

Stanton is combative and protective as Hilarion, telling much of Act I's story in his gestures. Bold's Albrecht breaths entitlement as he deceives Giselle and cheats on Bathilde, whose kindness overwhelms Giselle. Rausch's characterization of Giselle is exquisite, as she really finds that role in Act II. Lindsi Dec portrays a commanding Queen in her solos, and as she sends Albrecht back to variation after exhausting variation. Skinner's mother is stunning as she uses nuances in gesture to plead and scold. Amanda Clark and Andrew Bartee dance a compelling pas de deux that "works" despite some turns that stop too early and landings that border on disaster, both with equivalent virtuoso saves.

PNB's "Giselle" is an exciting and delightful depiction of Romantic Ballet. One wonders if, in any such "revival," the training and choice of ballet bodies of today results in anything close to the dancers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the "Giselle's" they performed.

Donald K. Atwood

© Copyright World Dance Reviews 2011

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