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The Joffrey's new GiselleOct. 2007


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#1 Treefrog

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Posted 21 October 2007 - 04:10 PM

What's that line the Arpino character says in The Company? Something like, "Is that pretty? You know how I hate pretty."

Watching today's performance of Giselle, I kept flashing on that line and thinking that if Mr. A were already dead, he'd be rolling over in his grave. What we saw was definitely pretty. But it turns out he DOES like pretty, judging from the "Brava!"s issuing from his usual box.

This was definitely not the standard Joffrey fare -- but I'm predicting it will become so in the future. The house was packed for the Sunday matinee. The crowd was enthusiastic in its response and applause.

This is only the second Giselle I've ever seen -- the other one being ABT a couple of years ago -- so I've little to compare this performance to. As a story ballet, it suits the company very well in some ways. It is a short, tight story with a relatively small cast. What's unexpected and unusual is the traditionalism. People are used to edginess from the Joffrey, and this is sweet, straightforward, gentle, and a touch bland -- but, on the whole, gorgeous.

Major, major kudos go to the wilis. The corps work was extraordinarily balanced and uniform -- quite wonderful, I thought, for a company that presents so few opportunities for large corps to work together. The timing was spot on, the angles just so, the movements consistent. Well done.

The mime was also very effective, very readable. Again, this is something not frequently encountered in the company's usual repertoire. I imagine that the coaching by Frederick Franklin had a lot to do with the success of the acting.

Not surprisingly, Maia Wilkins and Willy Shives were given a turn as Giselle and Albrecht. (There are at least four rotating casts.) This partnership has been together for a good long while, and they have the whole adoring, madly-in-love thing down pretty well. They are such a pleasing couple that one easily overlooks the major drawback to this casting: each is old enough to be Giselle's parent. It worked, however, with Wilkins' dancing looking especially strong.

John Gluckman was truly wonderful in the peasant pas de deux. Valerie Robin was a secure and commanding Myrtha.

Has anyone else gone? What did you think?

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 21 October 2007 - 05:19 PM

Thank you so much for posting that, Treefrog! It might have seemed more exciting with a different cast?

I hope if others saw it they'll post as well. There were several newspaper reports that the opening night cast -- Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili (from The Other Georgia) -- were quite good. Although I was puzzled by one sentence in Jennifer Dunning's review -- was this a compliment, or the reverse?

[Jaiani's] first act disintegration was as wrathful as it was deranged. And it all worked, tempered by a strong, clear, classical attack derived in part, one suspected, from Ms. Jaiani's love of skating.



#3 kfw

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Posted 21 October 2007 - 06:49 PM

I was puzzled by one sentence in Jennifer Dunning's review -- was this a compliment, or the reverse?

[Jaiani's] first act disintegration was as wrathful as it was deranged. And it all worked, tempered by a strong, clear, classical attack derived in part, one suspected, from Ms. Jaiani's love of skating.


I read it as a compliment. As I picture it, this Romantic era Giselle has a touch of righteous, feminist era rage. But perhaps it was that second sentence you were wondering about.

Treefrog, thanks!

#4 Helene

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Posted 21 October 2007 - 07:07 PM

Thank you so much for your review Treefrog!

#5 Treefrog

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Posted 21 October 2007 - 07:38 PM

Thank you so much for posting that, Treefrog! It might have seemed more exciting with a different cast?


At first I was going to say that, on the contrary, it was exciting. But then ... I thought, no, you were right to pick up on my tone. At least in the first act, it was more secure than exciting. And yes, a different cast might be more exciting. As much as I love Wilkins and Shives, especially together, I did feel a touch of the "ho-hum, here they are again." One of the reasons I appreciated Gluckman's pas was that it really WAS exciting.

I did love the forest scene, though. And all in all this is a definite keeper of a production.

Some random ruminations:

-- the romantic-style hair looked downright out of place on this company. Can't quite place why; they just didn't quite look the part.
-- I still can't figure out why Giselle wants to save Albrecht, who has proven he is a cad. I guess it's often the lot of the Other Woman to believe that He Truly Loves Me, even though the man in question has demonstrated his penchant for straying. (I know, I know: it probably has something to do with period concepts of ideal romantic love . . .) Should we admire or pity her?
-- Giselle's opening dance with the wilis had a frenetic quality to it, as though a continuation of (or transition from) her mad scene. It contrasts with the wilis more fluid movements. Is this deliberate? What popped into my head is that Giselle is somehow different from the other wilis, which is why she wants to save Albrecht instead of killing him. But maybe it's just a transition from life to death. Or maybe I'm imagining the whole thing.
-- it was fun to see Charthel Arthur as Giselle's mother
-

#6 vagansmom

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 11:00 AM

Treefrog, can you tell us the other Giselle/Albrecht castings?

#7 motwins8391

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 01:11 PM

I was there Friday night, the Christina Rocas/Mauro Villanueva cast, and seeing this young, fresh pairing was definitely exciting! Rocas -- a first, starring role for her, I believe -- was in complete command of the difficult steps and balances, and Villanueva was perfection: athletic, but beautifully classical and musical. In act 2 he did sky high assemble jumps, with these solid, bulls-eye landings: very exciting indeed. Perhaps Rocas could have presented more depth during the "Mad Scene", but she and Villanueva were poetic and magical in the second act. May we see more meaty roles for these two in the future! Bravas also to Kathleen Thielhelm, an alluring Myrta, and Allison Walsh, who danced the Peasant Pas fabulously.

As I was contemplating possible future changes under the new leadership, I thought how fun the Joffrey's all-star/no-star casting has been. One can see yesterday's Giselle and Albrecht dancing tomorrow's peasant man and woman. I hope this isn't considered too quaint now.

I was also wondering why there were not the usual dancers' photos in the program and the casting was printed on an insert.

#8 bart

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 02:44 PM

Thanks for that review, motwins8391. It's always interesting to see younger and upcoming dancers in roles like this.

As I was contemplating possible future changes under the new leadership, I thought how fun the Joffrey's all-star/no-star casting has been. One can see yesterday's Giselle and Albrecht dancing tomorrow's peasant man and woman. I hope this isn't considered too quaint now.

I was also wondering why there were not the usual dancers' photos in the program and the casting was printed on an insert.

I would also wonder about that. What other followers of the Joffrey think about this approach to casting?

#9 Treefrog

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 05:16 PM

vagansmom, you now have the answer to your question. I was mistaken about how many casts. There are only three (unless they are saving someone for next weekend, but that seems unlikely).

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 05:17 PM

To be truly Joffreyan, it would have to be Giselle and Albrecht one night, off the next night, corps the night after that, then maybe peasant pas, then back to the corps.

#11 bart

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 05:30 PM

To be truly Joffreyan, it would have to be Giselle and Albrecht one night, off the next night, corps the night after that, then maybe peasant pas, then back to the corps.

I don't know much about the company history of the Joffrey. Is this -- and what motwins8391 describes -- a long ccmpany tradition or philosophy? Did it start with Joffrey's own peferences? There were "stars, "or at lest de facto principals, within the Joffrey ensemble in the old days, no? I'm thinking of Gary Chryst, Trinette Singleton, Maximiliano Zomosa, Christian Holder ... even (briefly) Nureyev(!)

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 05:38 PM

Yes, Joffrey's own stated policy was "no stars, all stars". The audiences decided their own favorites.

#13 Treefrog

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 05:19 PM

To be truly Joffreyan, it would have to be Giselle and Albrecht one night, off the next night, corps the night after that, then maybe peasant pas, then back to the corps.


Here's the actual lineup (Friday, Saturday matinee, Saturday evening, Sunday matinee):

Rocas: Giselle, Giselle's friend/Wili X 3
Villanueva: Albrecht, Village Man, off, Village Man
Wilkins: off, Giselle, off, Giselle
Shives: off, Albrecht, off, Albrecht
Jaiani: off, off, Giselle, off
Suluashvili: Village Man, off, Albrecht, off

The current system isn't quite all star/no star. Some dancers are more starlike than others (e.g. Shives, Wilkins, Kitten), and some never seem to make it out of the corps, and a large group are first among equals: you can count on seeing them in the secondary roles, or even starring occasionally, but they also appear in the corps a lot. I can't think of anyone who never appears in corps or lesser roles. I kind of have the impression that even the star dancers like a chance to perform but not have to carry the show.

#14 Paul Parish

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 06:08 PM

Treefrog, how lucky you are to have a producition of Giselle you can get to know.

After seeing Ananiashvili dance it with the Bolshoi ca 1989, it seemd to me a very serious thing -- a kind of saint's life -- the first act shows her passion and death and the second act her first miracle.
Oakland Ballet danced it that way, too, in Franklin's staging, as a tragedy --really moving. SF Ballet dancces it more as something pretty -- more exquisitely, with lots of extra laciness whch I don't think it needs or even really benefits from, though Tina LeBlanc rises above that and makes it tragic. I've been lucky to be able to see it a lot. but the first time I saw it, with Sibley and Dowell no less, it did not lay a glove on me; it was only after a while that I started to realize how deep and how great it is.

Mr balanchine wrote a wonderful piece about it in his book, "Stories of the great ballets." He calls it the 'Hamlet' of ballet. I really recommend that book, and certainly his little essay on Giselle.

Good luck to the joffrey with their "Giselle."


I love the ballet beyond anything -- for many different kinds of reasons -- A) all that JUMPING. It's just wonderful to see a ballet with women jumping , and those phrases are SO beautiful.

#15 Jack Reed

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Posted 25 October 2007 - 02:07 PM

Yes, Treefrog and everybody, thank you very much! Treefrog, where do you get the casting? I'd like to work up a short list for the coming weekend, but I don't see that information on their website.

I've seen some major Giselles too, such as Fracci and Nagy, not to mention the Makarova-Barishnikov video, and wondered if JBC could really cast this moving tragedy, but hey, it's right here in town, and look at all the enthusiasm for it on Ballet Talk! So I'm up for a good last-minute seat.


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