Just as I kept repeating this to my friend Elena, I feel that I need to start with…
As we all know Giselle is the quintessential Romantic ballet which can be found in almost every ballet company’s classic repertoire. The story goes that peasant girl meets rich boy and they fall in love, rich boy lies to peasant girl and she dies of a broken heart, and something supernatural happens in the second act where vengeful ghosts appear and make bad men dance to death, ghost peasant girl saves rich boy because love, and rich boy ends up forever alone. The end and that’s all I’ll probably say plot-wise.
Last Friday I decided to go see Giselle with Akane Takada and Nehemiah Kish. Originally I was not planning to see The Royal Ballet’s Giselle at all because last year I had the opportunity to see the Bolshoi’s live cinema relay with prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova and the “bad boy of ballet” Sergei Polunin. Additionally, we all have our favourite dancers at the Royal Ballet and sadly the two starring roles were portrayed by none of mine; but why not give them chance, I mean, what is the worst that could happen?
Overall the whole production was great! I did like the stage design and how it looked like a painting from the stalls circle. Comparing it to the Bolshoi’s version, the RB went all out in the staging for both the first and second act. Also one good thing about Giselle is its music, memorable, sweet, and dramatic enough to follow the plot – those familiar with it will know what I am talking about.
Now about the two principal roles. As I mentioned above, I felt ambivalent towards Takada and Kish but after seeing them, let’s say I am biting my tongue. Akane was a dead ringer as Giselle, sweet innocent girl who is not aware of her sensuality. On the other side, Nehemiah was a perfect Albrecht and he knew how to carry out a princely character who lost the one (or two) love of his life, which blended with Takada’s interpretation of the main role. Top notch dancing and acting by both dancers!
Who stole the show for me? The fiercest girl in the underworld, Myrtha Queen of the Willis. I have seen Hikaru Kobayashi on this role on videos, but seeing it live is something else. The second act is magical with Myrtha slowly unveiling her face from under the vale, the dark setting, the slow movements going faster and faster going from bourées to jetés and turns. It is impressive how Kobayashi keeps her cool while portraying a role that is similar to a man’s role with all the jumps and turns. In my point of view, Myrtha is vital for the plot to continue to its climax because she is the one who punishes Albrecht dance to his death – who is saved by Giselle’s love. Myrtha is not only a character with queenly attributes, she is a queen that has and shows power.
You can read more about Myrtha on Morgan’s Ballet Character Focus: Myrtha Queen of the Willis
In conclusion I don’t regret seeing Giselle – great production value, great cast (shout out to the dancers doing the Pas de Six!), and overall an entertaining night. Now I know why it is so precious by fellow ballet fans.
I went, I saw, I got the programme. I don’t see myself seeing it again in the near future … unless they bring something to new to the table…
Before I forget! I need take a paragraph about to talk about Joshua Beamish’s ReImagining Giselle. His workshop was about how the characters from Giselle would behave and interact with each other in today’s world whilst keeping some of its classical dance vocabulary. It was an insightful night with dancers Yasmine Naghdi (Giselle), Paul Kay (Albrecht), Olivia Cowley (Myrtha) and Matthew Ball (Hilarion). I don’t want to delve too much into it since it is part of the Draft Works programme, but I did like his vision and hopefully one day we will be honoured to see a final product.
That’s all for today’s He Says but don’t miss my next review about Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale.
Feature Image Credit: Marianela Nuñez in Giselle © ROH 2016. Photographer Tristam Kenton