2 December 2009 WOS Rating: The English National Ballet’s production of Giselle, showing at the New Theatre, from 17th – 21st November is utterly magical, the best ballet I have ever seen. Erina Takahashi dances the role of Giselle with dramatic intensity, capturing both the fragility and the girlish intensity of her character through sensitive physicality and expressive facial movements. Her portrayal of Giselle’s youthfulness heightens the tragedy of the role; she performs Giselle’s sudden collapse with a looseness of body which conveyed impressively the intervention of spectral forces and prepared for her transition to spirit in the second Act. The portrayal of Giselle’s madness is subtle and incredibly moving; I have never seen a dancer with such complete characterisation. The great strength of the production as a whole is how strongly the plot is conveyed; the acting skills of the company are on a par with their dancing skills.
The story is also clarified through bold scenery and costume. The royal party are instantly recognisable through their opulent dress. The remaining members of the company are dressed during the first Act as charming rustics; combined with a beautiful set, the impression of the first Act is of a Poussin landscape brought to life. The second Act brings a striking change of atmosphere. By a transformation of set, we are transported to the forest where the spirits of the dead lie in wait. The opening of this Act is particularly effective, with low-level lighting evoking a sense of eeriness and giving the spirits an ethereal quality as they flit in and out, dressed in diaphonous blue tutus with matching veils. This Act brings breathtaking whole-company dancing: the quick shifts of formation as the spirits move in circles around the living are truly chilling. The perfect unison of the spirits really gives the sense of something otherworldly. The sustained motif of the flower becomes poignant in the second Act, as a floating Giselle scatters petals on her own grave. I would highly recommend purchasing a programme for its beautiful shots of the creative choreography.
Not only could the audience enjoy the stimulating contrast between the first and second Acts, but was also offered a short piece of a very different kind of dance, in the form of an all-male Prelude, by the troupe ‘Men Y Men’. Although maintaining the control of classical ballet, this Prelude had a more contemporary feel, with bolder rhythms and stronger movements. This piece exuded raw energy, with semi-naked male bodies clashing and writhing on a bare set; bold contrasts were created betwen stillness and whirling. One dancer seemed disturbingly unhuman in his insect-like twitching. The combination of this innovative piece with the classical formation-based choreography of
Giselle is unique and unmissable. This is a production which demonstrates the potential of ballet as an art form and the timelessness of even the most well-known ballets.
- Alexandra Hedges
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