On February 22, I went to see Alexandra Ballet’s production of ‘Giselle’ at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. The evening was also a Sapphire Celebration of Ms. A’s 65 years of teaching. Alumni, including myself, from the past 65 years were there to pay tribute to Ms. A and see the next generation learning the steps and lessons many of us learned. This production of ‘Giselle’ was an excellent example of everything Ms. A is best known for; total stage commitment even from the youngest of students, detailed port de bras, and the rigorous discipline that sets students up for a lifelong dedication to classical ballet.
The ballet opens with the curtain down, the space filled with Adolph Adam‘s score, delicate and romantic and also filled with tension. The curtain reveals a beautiful sunny village set with scenery by George Verdak and lighting from Tim Hubbard. Act 1 has admittedly, a lot of pantomime serving as storytelling. However, everyone from the youngest villager to the guest stars had a dancers posture- shoulders back, faces bright-and moved with purpose. There was an expressiveness of warmth, or worry in each gesture of the arms, and movement seemed to serve as a natural, conversational- yet balletic- style of communication.
Georgia Reed, as Giselle, was exuberant, light, bright, and joyful. She was sensitive to every nuance of the music and each character. Guest artist, Thom Dancy as Hilarion, lent a strong masculine presence, somehow perfecting Hularion’s tricky role as pitiable in his unrequited love, and also the busybody that pulls the wool from Giselle’s eyes. Guest artist, Brian Grant was charming, youthful, and persuasive- the sway he held over Giselle was apparent in their stage chemistry together and with excellent partnering. Both Reed and Grant provided very nice variations.The real meat of the showmanship is in peasant pas de deux, danced by Megan Rigabar and Elisha Malinski. The pair started strong with fantastic cabrioles in the opening. Partnering was at times a bit shaky but never affected their faces or energy level. Rigarbar showcased fabulous turns during her variation and a mature sense of finesse particularly landing each turn.These two looked their best in petite allegro such as the emboite, and saute basque which were clean and energetic.
Act 1 was a very good representation of the students; the villagers were very together and displayed nice attention to detail with pointed feet and soft epaulement in every balance.The villager scene with tambourines was very enjoyable and made great use of the stage space. A beautiful staging moment came when the friends dance in along the diagonal in their bright blues amongst a seas of earth-toned costumes, showing not only wonderful staging, nice dancing, but the incredible costuming from Jude Bonnot, Dace Dindonis, Jean Grewe, Kay Johnson, Nickie Junker, and Nina Reed. In this very fast section, the timing seemed to escape a few dancers as the friends weren’t entirely together. However, beautiful dramatic performances from all helped to form tension with Hularion’s reveal and Giselle’s madness, broken heart, and resulting death. The curtain falls on the color and safety of the village populated with friends and Giselle’s over-protective mother* leaving a feeling of despair, anger, and regret.