Friday, May 29, 2015

Balletomania: Giselle (Part I)

Giselle has always had a special appeal for me.  When I was young, I had this book about ballet and horseback riding. (Masquerade at the Ballet, it's amazing and will get its own post one day!)  The main character sees Giselle as her first ballet, and it is what sets her on her hijinks filled path to becoming a dancer.  When I saw my first ballet a few years ago, Giselle was the obvious choice.  I still remember that evening with Diana Vishneva dancing the title role.  This week, in my slow descent into balletomania, I saw two very special performances of Giselle by ABT.  Here is my account of the first.

On Saturday night, Stella Abrera performed as Giselle with ABT for the first time.  Abrera, a soloist with the company, is a favorite with the balletomane crowd, who often complain about her lack of promotion.  When it was announced about a week ago that she would be replacing an injured Polina Semionova, people on the internet went nuts!  The audience on Saturday reflected this, with a warm generous excitement in the air.  There were a bunch of ABT former dancers watching as it was Alumni Night, and apparently a few NYCB dancers crossed Lincoln Center to support her as well.

Abrera danced the role beautifully.  She was so convincingly girlish and fragile in the first act and yearning and ethereal in the second.  She was gorgeously Romantic in her style and her port de bras.  While there were some things that weren't technically brilliant (the hops on pointe were only okay), her portrayal of the character and emotions was flawless.  The mad scene at the end of Act I was gripping, I felt her descent into madness so keenly.

Partnering Abrera was Maarinsky guest artist Vladimir Shklyarov, who you may remember I was not very fond of in Swan Lake earlier this year.  I must say my opinion has been completely turned around.  He was brilliant as Albrecht on Saturday.  His depiction of the character was subtle and nuanced.  Frankly, I have always thought of Albrecht as an undeserving cad.  Shklyarov's portrayal made me see him as a tragic figure, a victim of circumstance.*  Shklyarov's dancing was also technically incredible.  His entrechat in the second act were epic.

He and Abrera were completely in sync and played off of one another wonderfully.  Their jumps together in act one were perfectly matched, with lovely ballon.  Their moments together were soft and tender.  I believed in their love.  Abrera's second act slow developpé had me in tears, and the partnered third arabesques were beyond gorgeous, with her arms touchingly emotive in their reach.

Myrtha is one of my favorite ballet roles and her second act entrance bourrées across the stage in a veil is one of my favorite things in life.  Veronika Part played the part with a commanding presence, but her dancing did not particularly stand out to me.  I thought the two soloist Wilis were quite good, and the corps were noteworthy as well.

Misty Copeland in the Peasant Pas de Deux was the only miss of the night for me.  She felt very clunky (maybe because her shoes were ridiculously loud), and her port de bras did not look right.  This section really dragged and the response was less than enthusiastic.

The night clearly belonged to Abrera and Shklyarov (with numerous curtain calls to boot), and it was a magical performance that I will not soon forget.

* (As an aside, funnily enough, I usually feel sorry for Hilarion, but in this performance (Thom Forster) my friend and I realized that he is a classic Nice Guy (TM) in a bro who feels entitled to a relationship because he's nice to a girl.)

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