Ratmansky's New-Old Giselle
|Olga Smirnova and Artemy Belyakov|
The only major noticeable differences are some steps in the second act pas de deux and Giselle's Act One variation -- Ratmansky has Giselle do the Olga Spessivtseva diagonal rather than the familiar manège of pique turns.
|He loves me, loves me not|
Instead the changes are in the smaller accents and tone of the ballet. The storytelling is much stronger in Act One. The mime that is usually excised in Russian productions is back. Therefore we get Berthe warning Giselle that she will die and become a Wili. We get Giselle miming her love of dance to Albrecht. But I expected that in Act One -- the excision of mime in Act One never made sense.
It was Act Two which companies now perform as a rather abstract ballet-blanc that was the surprise. The act begins with the villagers having a drunken revelry around the graveyard. Hilarion enters and broods -- he is very much Not In the Mood. The grand pas de deux ends with Giselle putting her face in her hands -- a very concrete expression of grief. During the big confrontation between Giselle, Albrecht and the Wilis, Albrecht physically hides behind the cross more than once. The finale of Giselle has Giselle explicitly directing Albrecht to return to his life at court before she sinks back into her grave (or in this case, a grassy mound) forever. To drive this point home, Bathilde and the courtiers enter and find Albrecht clutching some white daisies. This ending is harsher than the usual sight of Albrecht alone, center stage. It's a cold slap back to reality.
These changes add a bit of fussiness to the second act. Myrtha crosses the stage in a motorized scooter. The ending didn't work well either. As I mentioned early Giselle is not carried back to her grave, but to a grassy mound. There's too much back and forth between Giselle and Albrecht before Giselle sinks into that grassy mound. I also prefer the "traditional" ending of Giselle returning to her grave. After all she arose from her grave. Doesn't it make sense that after she saves Albrecht she returns to it?
|Angelina Vlashinets as Myrtha|
This reconstruction doesn't for a moment look musty and part of that is the strong performances from the entire cast. Even the character parts like Berthe (Ludmila Semenyaka) were strongly cast. Bolshoi Wilis are hard to beat -- they are inexorable and terrifying with the strong forward momentum of their movement.
|Peasant pas de deux|
Angelina Vlashinets was a strong, forbidding Myrtha with big, space-cleaving jumps. Daria Khokhlova and Alexei Putintsev were delightful in the Peasant pas de deux. They both had quick feet and bouncy jumps. Usually the Peasant pas de deux is a bit of a fridge break for me. Not here. Denis Savin was a vivid, pitiful Hilarion.
This Giselle also feels fresh because even though many steps are slightly tweaked and so much mime restored, the style of dancing doesn't have the self-consciousness that often hampers "reconstructions" -- in this case, the dancers dance in a modern style. Legs go above 90 degrees in both arabesque and developpé, grande jetés are done with the big Soviet style splits. In other words, the style is rather "Bolshoi." It looks and feels natural and organic, not a style imposed on the dancers for the purposes of a reconstruction.
This reconstruction brings up an interesting debate -- is it more important to restore Steps or Style? At least in this reconstruction the focus is on the steps. And I for one found it a completely satisfying compromise between the Old and New.
Coming soon: some reviews of NYCB's winter season for bachtrack as well as performances I've been following.