Review: Giselle at the St James Theatre

JENNIFER SHENNAN
Last updated 12:49 08/11/2012
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HAUNTING BEAUTY: Giselle features expressive and controleld performances.

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Giselle: Royal New Zealand Ballet, Vector Wellington Orchestra

St James Theatre, until Sunday

Reviewed by Jennifer Shennan

Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg, two stellar forces in world ballet, have combined to direct a streamlined synopsis for this classic. All the dancing serves the story tightly, so its unforgiving ending is inevitable.

The painted frontcloth for Act One (design by Howard Jones) is a colourful tree with branches, covered in heart-shaped leaves, uplifted into the bright air . . . O happy villagers.

Swoop down to the tree roots and there's another heart shape, menacing in the dank, dark undergrowth . . . O woeful shades.

Gillian Murphy dances her inaugural Giselle with breathtaking control and superbly phrased delivery. Her technique is impeccable but never bravura.

She may have the reputation of being a fast dancer but believe me, she does slow too. Balances are held, arabesques developed, port de bras sustained, pirouettes gifted, all speaking of love. Lucky RNZB, and they know it.

Qi Huan as Albrecht fair explodes with the thrill of partnering her, and dances better than he ever has. Such expressive play, such heroic heights, such strong partnering . . . the dancer and the lover are one.

Unusually, Jacob Chown as Hilarion garners our sympathy for the sweet but jilted lover, through dramatic performing not seen from him before.

The villagers dance with great joie de vivre, in patterns of visual and rhythmic delight. As the bridal couple among them, Lucy Green and Medhi Angot are a delicious joy of everything right.

In Act Two, Abigail Boyle as Queen of the Wilis is chillingly perfect and has to be seen to be believed. The Wilis are forces to be reckoned with; everything's wrong, and they dance to prove it.

The forest at midnight is dangerous, if hypnotically beautifully staged.

Michael Lloyd conducts Vector Wellington Orchestra. Teachers, wardrobe, crew and management are on duty. A million things could go wrong with an enterprise of this magnitude, yet nothing does.

The stage is throbbing with talented dancers, among them three sets of soloists for this short season. I have seen them all in rehearsal. Pitch perfect. Lucky us.

The Wellington season is dedicated to the late David Carson- Parker, arts philanthropist and RNZB supporter.

Thank you, David.

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