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Flash Review 2, 7-24: Another Giselle
Holds Her Own
And Guillem's Choreography Offers Gifts for Purists and Revisionists Alike
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2001 Susan Yung
The choreographer of La Scala Ballet's
new "Giselle," Sylvie Guillem, was given a rest for Saturday's matinee,
allowing principal dancer Sabrina Brazzo to step into the title role and some
metaphorically huge pointe shoes. She was paired with Mick Zeni, who relieved
Massimo Murru as Albrecht. Both brought their own wonderful talents to the performance
at the State Theater in this new, semi-radical interpretation of the classic warhorse.
As proven in Wednesday's performance
of "Amarcord," Brazzo is an eloquent ballerina, physically and emotionally.
Her long developpes in arabesque end in a sort of grace note, lilting upwards
in a generous interpretation of phrasing that still makes musical sense. She is
able to render the most subtle port de bras with clarity as when she switches
arms mid-phrase to accompany a developpe in second. She possesses a psychological
maturity that is interesting to watch, and holds her own when compared to the
justifiably revered Guillem. The biggest handicap for Zeni, a soloist with La
Scala, is that he appears to be just plain young. Nonetheless, he is technically
accomplished, particularly in petite allegro sections of entrechats six, and in
the exhausting multiple entrechats in the finale, which he began with his arms
in a quiet fifth position en bas, gradually resorting to bouncing his arms in
second. The bonus of Zeniās youthfulness was felt by the audience in an irrepressible
exhilaration of dancing at that level. It was infectious.
The first half of "Giselle"
felt like "ballet verite," with plain costuming and make-up and a clever
wall set piece (by Paul Brown, who also designed the costumes) that executed more
pirouettes than the dancers in the first ten minutes. The engaging set had elements
seemingly plucked from the surrealism of Magritte; a fence lining the upstage
wall morphed from parallel lines to organic curlicues. The extensive expository
gesturing overwhelmed the small bits of dancing, though the harvest scene contained
some rowdy folk sequences.
The second act began with a field
of rocks which levitated to become threatening clouds, to great effect. This more
traditional act was much dancier, in no small part due to the storyline. (I refer
you to Alicia Mosier's flash of "Giselle,"
with Guillem in the title role, for an excellent overview of the production and
story.) The Wilis were exquisitely garbed in unique bridal dresses, which must
have accounted for the 45-minute intermission. (It can't be easy going from peasant
to bride in under a half hour.) Each gown was tailored beautifully, the skirts
composed of many layers of soft tulle, which flared into a perfect semi-circle
in turns. (Also noteworthy were costumes worn by the Duke's entourage; Bathilde
sported a chic red pantsuit topped with a leather sarong.)
Guillem's choreography showed a profound
musical sensitivity and an obvious affection for ballet. Her phrasing reminded
me of a warm conversation between good friends, offering subtleties and insights
on character through language -- in this case, ballet. She effectively employed
diagonals, either within one solo phrase or between partners, producing energetic
dynamics. Perhaps the one foible of her choreography is that, conceived as they
are by a highly accomplished and gifted dancer, the steps may be too ambitious
for certain other dancers. The second act contained many stunning geometric arrangements
for the Wilis, led by the excellent Beatrice Carbone.
Before the curtain and at the lengthy
intermission, I'd heard hungry murmurings of dissent from audience members who
feared any tampering with a beloved classic. However, there was something solid
for purists and revisionists alike in Guillem's "Giselle."
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