Dance review: 'Giselle' brought back to life in PNB staging
A review of Pacific Northwest Ballet's haunting production of the 1841 ballet "Giselle," with Carla Körbes debuting in the lead role.
Seattle Times arts writer
'Giselle'7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday; Pacific Northwest Ballet, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $27-$165 (www.pnb.org or 206-441-2424).
Dance Review |
It was as if we'd seen a ghost. Dancing the title role in Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Giselle" on Friday's opening night, Carla Körbes transformed herself before a rapt audience's eyes. In Act I, she was all flirty charm as a happy, spirited village girl, enchanted by a handsome duke, Albrecht (Karel Cruz), disguised as a peasant. But tragedy ensues, and Act II found Giselle emerging from her grave to dance with a troupe of vengeful female spirits (young women, dead before their wedding nights), known as the Wilis.
Körbes, so warm and elemental previously, now seemed to be made of air; her leg wafting up in arabesque as if independent of her body. Cruz lifted her as if she were weightless as tissue, floating horizontally above him — and by the end of their pas de deux, she was less ghost than guardian angel: still remote and ethereal, yet guided by love.
Körbes' performance — and that of the entire fine opening-night cast — seemed touched by magic, which would be just the right way to bring something ancient back to life. "Giselle" premiered in Paris in 1841, with choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot and a score by Adolphe Adam (given a slightly bumpy reading by PNB's orchestra on opening night, with a few tempo problems). While it's had numerous restagings and revivals since then, the ballet has never been in PNB's repertory.
This version, based on Coralli/Perrot and later choreography by Marius Petipa, is unique: Staged by PNB artistic director Peter Boal, with choreography reconstruction by Doug Fullington and historical adviser Marian Smith, it uses several 19th-century sources to re-create the ballet as it might have been seen long ago, including elaborate mime sequences (a useful guide is provided in the program) and a few scenes previously dropped.
The result is a soft, pretty "Giselle," with moments of old-fashioned stagecraft (watch the Wilis' veils!), delicately precise dancing and performances of undeniable power. Körbes and Cruz took a melodramatic story and gave it heart, letting us suffer with Giselle during her mad scene (she seems part child, part fury) and gasp with Albrecht as the Wilis bring him to the brink of dancing himself to death.
Carrie Imler, as Myrtha, queen of the Wilis, let her jumps hang in the air much as a ghost's might, displaying a quiet menace and a talk-to-the-hand imperiousness. And the Wilis, glowing in Randall G. Chiarelli's moody blue light, danced with eerie precision; you believed they could go on all night, and then some. All ended with a long standing ovation and multiple curtain calls — roars of appreciation, for making "Giselle" live again.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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