Friday, January 12, 2007


My visit to the London Coliseum was greeted by angry anti-BNP protesters demonstrating at the entrance.

Mary Skeaping’s Giselle was led by Simone Clarke and Dmitri Gruzdyev as the ill-fated lovers. They were supported by Fabian Reimair as Hilarion, and Sarah McIlroy as Myrtha.
Act 1 greeted the audience with a sense of vintage-ness atmosphere, which was strongly contributed by David Walker’s rustic and warmth-coloured designs and Adolphe Adam’s music, under the baton of Martin West.
Skeaping’s Giselle seemed to focus more miming in the first act and more dancing in the second act. The character Hilarion, get hardly any dancing opportunities in the first act, however, it showcased Reimair’s dramatic talents. Another mime solo by Giselle’s mother, Berthe, performed by Laura Hussey, was another highlight. Hussey clearly acted out her mime scene, but I thought there was too much fuss with undoing Giselle’s hair after the latter’s collapse.
In the Peasant Pas de Deux, Maria Kochetlkova gave a bright and fluent performance; partnered by Medhi Angot, who gave an excellent solo, filled with sharp batteries and tours en l’airs. A strong air of gaiety amongst the corp de ballet in Act 1, which was a joy to watch, however some may have struggled with some of the fast footwork.
Clarke portrayed an innocent and joyous Giselle, with a strong and buoyant technique. Her effortless leaps were airy and light. Her solos were beautifully executed with a peasant-like charm. Despite disruption in the stalls by protesters, Clarke continued dancing in her role, supported by her encouraging cohorts. Her ‘mad’ scene was delivered with subtlety. Her delicate and fragile approach urged one’s sympathy rather than thinking her madness was absurd. Gruzdyev played a confidant and assured Albrecht, who seemed to look awkward in his solo in the first Act. Personally, I felt that his Albrecht started to fall deeper in love with Giselle after her ‘mad’ scene, as he reluctantly left the ‘death scene’ out of grief rather than guilt.

When the royal purple-coloured velvet curtains arose to reveal the mystical sets of Act 2, the warmth from Act 1 has instantly disappeared. Walker’s sets presented a chilling yet humble atmosphere, with the dried ice and green lighting, which enhanced the spookiness and the strobe lights, that gave a dramatic effect to this act. McIlroy’s Myrtha was assured, powerful and authoritative, and the same goes for her dancing. Her Wilis corp were on top form. Lines and togetherness were strongly emphasised. Hilarion finally danced in Act 2, Reimair’s Hilarion’s excellent solo was unfortunately short lived, and I wished there was more dancing of him.

Apart from the technical demands in her second act, which she effortlessly executed a refined Wili, Clarke approached this act with immense delicacy, care and ethereality. Gruzdyev seemed to get more into the character and dancing in the second Act. His dejected Albrecht performed all his solos flawlessly, and gave assured support to his ballerina. One of the best moments in this production that touched my heart was when Albrecht shared his last moments with Giselle at the crack of dawn. David Mohr’s splendid lighting enhanced the effect of this moment. The yellow trail of light from downstage, shining on Giselle’s effortful attempt to revive the tired Albrecht by putting his one arm over her shoulders to lift him to his feet.

The entire performance was like a visit to an old library, and opening one of the old books; dusting away the years of dust it has collected and discovering the beautiful rusticity of ballet all over again.


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