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BalletNut

Giselle

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Casting is up for Giselle, which opened on the 19th. I'm glad Tan got opening night, I think it's a very good role for her. Looking forward to all of your reports! :angry2:

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OK, West Coasters!! Let's get the reviews on Giselle!! We never hear enough about SFB!! It's weird (well maybe its b/c I live on the East coast), but it seems like ballet is more East coast concentrated. Yet, we have great companies in the west: SFB, PNB, Oregon, etc. --it seems as though we don't hear as much news from the west coast companies. Any thoughts?

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Hmm, no responses yet. I saw the opening night performance, as well as the Sunday matinee the next day. High points: Tina LeBlanc and Gonzalo Garcia on Sunday danced very well and had great chemistry. Garcia wowed the crowd in Act II with a series on entrechat sixes that seemed to go on forever. The costumes (except for the peasant men's codpieces) and sets were wonderful. Hansuke Yamamoto was really impressive in the peasant pas de cinq with a very clean, precise technique, and really nice ballon. Sarah Van Patten was very nice as the 2nd lead Wili (the whirlpool/renverse Wili). The entry of the royal party was really quite an occasion, and very impressive.

Low points: the lighting was clumsy with spotlights that seemed lost, the corps needed more work, especially in Act II, where the Wili chug section kind of rippled along. The music was well-played, but the attacks seemed blunted. Yuan-Yuan Tan and Pierre-Francois Villanoba on opening night had no chemistry, and rather detached dancing. IMO, I don't think it's a good role for Tan.

The Sunday performance held together dramatically better than Saturday's, and there were some really touching moments.

edit: I forgot to mention that I really dislike the peasant pas de cinq. It's basically the pas de deux's choreography spread out over 2 boys and 3 girls. It reminded me of a social dance class where there aren't enough men, as there was usually 1 girl dancing by herself doing the same moves as the other girls are doing, except unsupported. The effect of the choreography is also diffused and diluted by this spreading out.

--Andre

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Thanks for weighing in, Andre Yew. Anyone else go?

Tan does have chemistry issues sometimes, but I still think she's physically suited to the role, especially the second act. I wish I could have seen LeBlanc...

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I have seen two different casts, and it was like night and day. As a Wednesday night subscriber, I saw Kristin Long in her first Giselle. Quite frankly, she was dreadful. I cannot imagine why she was cast in this role. She is so completely wrong for it. I was so disappointed in the performance that during intermission I went to the box office and got a ticket for Thursday night, when Yuna Yuan Tan was dancing. I just returned from that performance, and it was spectacular. I was not struck so much by the lack of chemisty between Tan and Vilanoba, as someone else mentioned. I think she has come a long way as an actress and did a very good job with the mime and such. But it was her dancing that made the evening memorable. Absolutely ethereal.

Long was partnered by Guenaddi Nedviguine. His dancing was much stronger than Vilanoba's, but Vilanoba was a better actor.

I hope to get a last-minute ticket to see Lorena Feijoo as Giselle. I've seen her dance the role twice before and thought it was the perfect role for her. I won't have a chance to see Tina LeBlanc, though I did enjoy her performance as Giselle two years ago. I would like to have seen Gonzolo Garcia, though. I've heard great things about his Albrecht.

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I was so disappointed in the performance that during intermission I went to the box office and got a ticket for Thursday night, when Yuna Yuan Tan was dancing.  I just returned from that performance,  and it was spectacular. 

Wow, Talespinner, many people would have left at intermission and not come back for a season or two :)

I glad the second performance was worth it for you.

Welcome to Ballet Talk.

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Yes, Talespinner, welcome to Ballet Talk, and what a wonderful first post. Perhaps you'd like to pop into the Welcome forum and introduce yourself there, where you will be Officially Greeted. :)

I look forward to hearing about Thursday's performance. :)

Editing to add: I actually think Long had danced Giselle before Wednesday, but it was your first time seeing her, anyway, right? :)

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I talked with a friend last night who had seen Kristen Long dance Giselle Wednesday and he thought she was sublime. He thought her mad scene was wonderful and her second act work quite excellent. Isn't is wonderful how different people can see the same performance so differently?

I have seen Tan, Feijoo so far and will see Tina LeBlanc tonight. I saw Tina in rehearsal for th first act last week. Her acting was so strong in the mad scens you wanted to rush on stage to console her (an urge that I, fortunately resisted). I am looking forward to seeing her tonight. I thought Yuan Yuan was fine in her performance. Her tecnique is supurb but I still think her acting has a ways to go. The acting was stronger in the second act. She is definately improving in that area. Lorena was a fasinating Giselle. This her her role, but you would expect that from someone trained by Alicia Alonso.

I saw Maffre as Myrtha one night and Elana Altman another. Muriel was, as expected, wonderfully brittle as the Queen. She is so strong in such roles. She truely floated across the stage in her initial entrances in a wonderfullly etherial way. It seemed her feet never moved, her hovered and floated on the breeze. I was impressed with the strength Altman brought to the role. She was not quite as cold and etherial as Muriel but I thought she was quite good. I am looking forward to seeing Katita Waldo dance the role tonight.

Vadim Solomakha danced Albrect to with Feijoo. When he gets into a part he really puts all of himself out on the stage. And he was there this night. His characteization was ever bit as strong as his dancing. He seemed to really be pushing himself to greater and greater heights and when he collapsed on Giselles grave at the the end It seemed a truely wounded soul. He was wonderful. I am looking to Garcia in that role tonight with LeBlanc's Giselle.

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I talked with a friend last night who had seen Kristen Long dance Giselle Wednesday and he thought she was sublime.  He thought her mad scene was wonderful and her second act work quite excellent.  Isn't is wonderful how different people can see the same performance so differently?

=====

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. I still think Kristin Long was all wrong for the part, and so did most of the people sitting around me. The man seated in front of me (I'm in the 4th row) said he was going to fire off a letter to Helgi begging him never to use her for Giselle ever again. I will admit that her mad scene was well done. But up until that moment, she made me cringe.

She was slightly better in the second act, but overall there was a heaviness to her movements that struck a wrong chord for me. She also missed her footing twice and had to be caught quickly by her partner, and her balance was off-center in several variations. I just don't think she was up to the role.

That same evening Vanessa Zahorian played Myrtha. I was sceptical, since she is so tiny and I always think of Myrtha as stately and grand. But she was surprisingly good. She had a boatload of "wicked" makeup on that made her look very different. Seeing Muriel Maffre the next night, though, was a pleasure. This role was made for her.

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I enjoyed tonight's (Friday's) Giselle and agree with Andre Yew on many of his points. I liked Tina LeBlanc more in the second act than the first. She was a bit too coy in the first and when she jumped and beat--or whisked--her feet, they ran across each other too quickly. Garcia's strengths seem to be the natural and at once unnatural unexpected extra extension he has in his cabrioles (or jete battus--unsure of my vocabulary), something of the same effect of the extra punch that Melissa Hayden has, at least in videos. GG always holds his arms firmly but gracefully across which gives a nice contrast to the movements of his feet and make them appear as if suspended from above, and when his hands are higher it's as if there held by strings at his wrists. Other members of the company seem to have too much of a bending, willowy carriage of their arms, which is not as architecturally interesting to me. I did like the dancing of the members of the pas de cinq--Vanessa Zahorian, Francis Chung, and Sarah Van Patten, and I liked Elizabeth Miner a lot as a Solo Wili. She seemed to dance just a touch behind the beat, which made the finishes of her moves have a satisfying fullness to them.

On another note, it's always a thrill to be arriving at the old War Memorial Opera House at the last minute in the crush to pick up tickets and to overhear people in line exchanging, or to participate in, heated thoughts on ballet. Last week the woman behind me was from Denmark, here to see what Helgi was up to, and this evening the woman in her place--with her two San Francisco neices--was from New York and a NYCB regular, and talking with her was like speaking a foreign language you haven't spoken for years and yet remembering all the words and constructions. Our ballet Latin included: who in New York had just been mysteriously promoted and who had significantly been not, who was tall and who was short, what the real reason O. was retiring was, and that P. had really gone too far this time; who did Rubies well and that Emeralds been a real disappointment this season. (SF is far too polite for this kind of talk and nothing ever really gets beyond the first stages here.) And in the auditorium the woman next to me had seen Nureyev as Albrecht in the first Giselle she saw years ago in Italy and he had signed her program, and the young dancers in front of me giggled and nudged each other and gossiped with their fingers as the performances went on, and afterwards showed great signs of having been overwhelmed and at the same time amused by what they had seen. It's always great fun.

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While I enjoyed your review, Quiggin, your slice of life was priceless -- wonderful. Many thanks for that!

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when she jumped and beat--or whisked--her feet, they ran across each other too quickly.

I wish my students had that "problem." :wink:

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That same evening Vanessa Zahorian played Myrtha.  I was sceptical, since she is so tiny and I always think of Myrtha as stately and grand.  But she was surprisingly good.  She had a boatload of "wicked" makeup on that made her look very different.  Seeing Muriel Maffre the next night, though, was a pleasure.  This role was made for her.

Not having seen Zahorian as Myrtha, I'm having a hard time picturing her in it. Actually, she'd probably be an interesting Giselle. But I'm not sure size has everything to do with it; it wouldn't be a problem at all if Giselle was LeBlanc. I think it's Zahorian's personality that I'm having trouble picturing as Myrtha. She's always struck me as a very "sweet" dancer, and Myrtha isn't sweet. But, she does certainly have the technique, and "wicked makeup" can make a lot of things possible. :thumbsup:

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I saw Zahorian as Myrtha and felt the same way. She's a very warm, sweet personality and although she acted and danced the part well I still kept expecting her to transform suddenly into a Good Fairy, beam happily at Albrecht, and wave him off into the woods.

I also took in Long's Giselle in Saturday's matinee. I fear I must second Talespinner. Long just isn't up to Giselle. I'm sorry.

Was sorry to miss LeBlanc this time around, although I agree she can overdo the sweet guileless smile. I have fond memories of her and Roman Rykine in this.

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Thanks, Quiggin, for your evocation of the thrill of being in a great theater for a major performance. I am not familiar with any of the San Francisco dancers but I now feel I know the world for which they dance.

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Was sorry to miss LeBlanc this time around, although I agree she can overdo the sweet guileless smile.  I have fond memories of her and Roman Rykine in this.

Oh, I remember their partnership, too. It was lovely. (Whatever happened to him?) Another favorite, in 1999, was Lucia Lacarra (sp?) with Yuri Possokhov. I hated to see her leave the company. She had amazing feet.

The most memorable Giselle I ever saw was back in 1976 -- American Ballet Theatre with Natalia Makharova and Baryshnikov, and Cynthia Gregory as Myrtha. Tickets were cheaper in those days, and when ABT came to town (back then they performed for 8-10 days in Berkeley at Zellerbach, and then 8-10 days in SF at the Opera House) I went to every performance. I saw all the casts of Giselle, and this cast more than once. But there was one night when everyone was so "on" -- I was so moved I could barely speak. All these years later and I still remember it vividly. That has ever after been my yardstick for judging Giselles.

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What a dream cast. I envy you, Talespinner.

I almost went back up on Sunday to catch Tan and make it a triple Giselle weekend, but real life interfered, unfortunately. And as you note, cost is much more of a factor these days.

Roman Rykine went to Boston Ballet, if I remember correctly. I hope he's prospering. I sometimes had mixed feelings about Lacarra, but say what you will, she's a ballerina.

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She had amazing feet.

Yep, that's just about what she had. :wacko:

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I saw that 1976 performance, too, Talespinner-- and indeed, I'll never forget it. the fusion of dancing and acting was beyond anythng I've seen since. In act 2, when Baryshnikov went t try to touch Makarova, his hands went right through her body..... i know it didn't happen, but I DID see it -- the illusion was so strong, which means I guess that both knew how to make it happen technically and both knew how to stand by it emotionally.....

And in the first act, Baryshnikov was a nervous wreck except when Giselle was around..... he already looked like he was about to explode..... how could he bring himself to tell her he was a prince? he DID NOT WANT TO BE A PRINCE. (And more than Odette wants to be a swan -- but that 's another ballet).

On hte other hand, with Lacarra, I saw her on opening night, when she fell off point in the toe hops. Before that happened, she already seemed phony as Giselle; she WAS a beautiful wraith-like creature in act 2, but her act 1 had no conviction to me.

The first act girl has got to be real. LeBlanc was real. I don't insist on Ulanova, I'll take Chauviree (Giselle as an aristocrat's love child, or grandchild), or Seymour -- a real peasant girl. Makarova had a very thoroughly thought- through characterization, and Ananiashvili was a high-strung, wrong-side-of-the-blanket Giselle; Kirkland I never saw, but she actuallyWAS Giselle, or a soul-mate, deep down.

I seem to be the only person who loved Kristin Long in the first act. I wrote about it this week in Danceview, so I won't repeat myself. I admit the second act wasn't great (Elizabeth Miner was great, as moyna, and Nedviguine danced heroically).... But I loved the first. Those of you who did not like Long are pretty dismissive. you don't say why.What did you not like? WHY not?

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I seem to be the only person who loved Kristin Long in hte first act. I wrote about it this week in Danceview, so I won't repeat myself. I admit the second act wasn't great (Elizabeth Miner was great, as moyna, and Nedviguine danced heroically)....  But I loved the first. Those of you who did not like Long are pretty dismissive. you don't say why.What did you not like? WHY not?

Well, I already mentioned how she lost her footing a couple of times and had to be quickly caught and steadied by her partner, and the general heaviness of her movements in Act 2. In Act 1, I simply thought she moved through it all in a very pedestrian way, with no spark or joy in her dancing, and nothing in her technique beyond the ordinary. She only barely let go of Nedviguine for the merest instant in those unsupported arabesques. I also had serious trouble with her acting. It's funny, but the mad scene was the only part I thought she did well. During the rest, she kept a goofy look on her face and just seemed awkward and uncomfortable.

But this is all my opinion and very subjective. We all look for and admire different things in dancers, as in every category of art.

I am glad, though, to hear your confirmation of that 1976 performance, Paul. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who still remembers it so vividly.

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Quiggin - awesome post. :D

Can scarely believe that it was only last week that I saw Fejoo dance

*another* marvelous "Giselle". She was superb. Made up for a very

bad "Giselle" that I saw in the Fall at Kennedy Center. I loved driving

around all over those insane SF hills, seeing light pole flags on virtually

every street corner proudly advertising the SF Ballet's season with the

unbelieveably sensual and amazing Lorena Fejoo as the poster child.

IMHO, thought the Princess Bathilde did the best job I've seen in years

of being highborn and snooty. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the

performance wearing my grandmother's mink coat :)

O SF Ballet! Still so wonderful!!!! :)

~Lazer Canary

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The 1976 Zellerbach Giselle is the one by which I judge all other Giselles. I saw several of the performances and was there the night that the performance went beyond just great and touched the sublime. I had chills up my back and tears in my eyes. I will never, ever forget it.

I also saw Kirkland and Baryshnikov and although the performance didn't come together as a perfect whole the way the Makarova/ Baryshnikov perfomance did, Kirkland was a perfect Giselle ... all innocence and light, and there was this puppyish quality to her dancing, like her feet had little air pads under them so that gravity didn't affect her. Amazing.

As for this season's Giselle, I saw Kristin Long on Wednesday night and have to join with the detractors. I thought her first act was dismal. She didn't inhabit Giselle, she just danced the steps (and not even all that well). She was somewhat better in the second act.

I was surprised by how good Zahorian was. And Gennadi Nevidigine was wonderful as always. He's such a strong dancer and I thought his acting was fine. He played a very tender Albrecht.

I haven't seen Tina LeBlanc's Giselle, but I have a real problem imagining it. I often have difficulty fulling enjoying Tina's fine technique because of the tension I see in her neck and face. Sometimes when she's "smiling" it comes across as a grimace. That may be acceptable in other roles, but in Giselle? Sorry, I just can't see it.

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Have to agree with Lasercanary (sp?) that SFB's Baathilde was truly remarkable -- Pascal Leroy, who was a ballerina with the company a few years back, now teaches in hte school and always had a wonderful stage presence. She did nothing to upstage anybody, and yet she was quite fascinating, and I watched her constantly -- watching her watch everybody (especially Albrecht) and think.... She really was an aristocrat, and she was really a person -- you could see her think, and feel, complex feelings.

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