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Giselle - Spring 2014

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#1 Batsuchan


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Posted 16 June 2014 - 08:26 PM

I guess I'll be the first to start this topic!


I went to the stage door, so now it is quite late and I'll be brief.


Frankly, I thought Vishneva/Gomes were phenomenal tonight.  Not only was their dancing amazing, but they brought such an emotional connection to the ballet.  I think they are reaching new heights with their partnership.


Murphy was a fine and imperious Myrta.  


I'll write more later!  All I can say is "Bravo"!!

#2 FauxPas


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Posted 16 June 2014 - 08:41 PM

When Diana as Giselle entered she has this bounding skipping hop step where she goes up on one leg with the other one kind of bent to the knee.  Diana hung in the air with each leap and I said "this is going to be a good night for her".  Clearly she was on and giving extra.  She really amped up the technique in her solo variation actually adding extra hops on pointe and extra beats to complete her big diagonal.  Pirouettes were killer.  The interpretation was more classic and central than her wild, rebellious, coltish earlier Giselle.  A very shy and introverted girl with a rich inner life.  The mad scene was more eerie than ever - chillingly out of reality yet connected to something otherworldly.  
Joseph Gorak and Sarah Lane danced the Peasant PDD - Gorak is really buoyant and clean with nicely finished graceful turns and batteries always landing with his feet in position on the music.  Sarah lovely as ever but I get the sense of a dancer who is content to be sweet and accomplished and is stalled artistically.
In Act II Diana was working extra hard and though it wasn't entirely effortless seeming it was very excitingly done.  Diana was going for an ultra-Romantic style with almost decadent, mannered but evocative exaggerated line.  However, Diana has the flexible back and willowy arms for over the top Romantic style and worked it.  Diana's technique is still very impressive in this role - she took risks and made them work.  Her spins when she was wakened from death were very fast with wild, kind of spastic energy.  In the solo Diana tried to make her legs move sideways, back and in deep arabesque penchée without any tension or shifting of weight and it almost seemed that way.  (The entrechats en derriere in the pas really required all she had)  Marcelo is an arrogant Latin playboy in Act I who is selfish but not really malicious.  In Act II he suffers big time.  Marcelo was also giving extra in his entrechats six and leaps. In the pas de deux his strength made Diana float on air like a feather.  Gillian Murphy was commanding as Myrtha (the gliding bourrees at her entrance were like the beating of a dragonfly's wings).  Misty Copeland and especially Yuriko Kajiya were fine as her attendant Wilis.
 In the final bow the curtain goes up and Diana is center stage leaning into Marcelo with her head resting on his chest looking towards the audience with a faraway, lost expression.  Major exchange of flowers and kisses and deep reverences and curtsies to each other.  Fans throw flowers and stuffed animals onstage which are ignored.  Marcelo doesn't bother to pick them up for her.  House pretty much full, even the family circle and rear boxes and the energy is enthusiastic and pumped.  

#3 Amour


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 12:06 AM

Faux Pas thank you for giving so many details to this amazing transformative experience. I used to think Diana's Giselle with Corella (about 10 years ago) was the best I had seen. But no, tonight was; in Act 2 I actually felt transported to another realm - this never happens to me.

The point on which we differ a bit is Gillian. I think she was having an off night. In the beginning I found everything looked forced & too much (like her back cambre). I thought her arms were stiff not soft and there was a general lack of Romantic demeanor. I know she is supposed to be stern but this was too much. The good news is she got better and looser as the night progressed. Still, I have seen her do better Myrthas.

I also loved Joey and Sarah in the peasant pas. I think both Joey's tours and petit batterie and Sarah's jetés and pirouettes were great. Sarah in real life is sweet and that is how she dances. If she has stalled artistically, it is because ABT's idiot AD, Kevin, has not given her roles in which she can really stretch herself (not like he did with Hee Seo and now Isabella). As for Joey, if he isn't promoted within the next few months I will know that Kevin is definitely a moron.

Again, tonight's Giselle was 1 for the ages; a Giselle I will never forget.

#4 abatt


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 05:21 AM

Yes, Vishneva/Gimes was extraordinary because of the deep emotions and personal connection between the two leads which makes their performances together so moving.  Others may have greater technical facility, but that's not really what Giselle is about.  As Faux Pas mentioned, Vishneva in particular is working harder these days to accomplish the technical demands of the role, but that didn't matter at all.  So happy to see a truly remarkable performance after having seen the Bolshoi's Giselle a few weeks ago in D.C. , where there was no emotional connection between Hallberg and Zakharova. 


We'll see how Hallberg does tonight with Semionova.  Hopefully it won't be a repeat of last year's R&J, where Hallberg looked like he was withering trying to lift Semionova.


Lane and Gorak were terrific in the peasant pdd last night, and I'm hoping that he gets a promotion soon.

#5 angelica


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 06:28 AM

Last night I saw what may well have to be my last performance of Giselle, because what I saw was its Platonic perfection. Diana Vishneva was sublime, the supreme embodiment of the character, dancing with a stellar technique and making gorgeous visual images with a stunning ballet line. In Act II, she was weightless, floating, never touching the floor. Marcelo Gomes was her ever-adoring partner. Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak were exquisite in the peasant pas de deux. Jared Matthews was the best Hilarion I have ever seen (and now he is leaving for Houston Ballet because--well, we won't even go there on this forum). My only quibble, agreeing with Amour above, is that Gillian Murphy, as Myrtha, danced formidably but, in my view, over-acted her sternness. I would have preferred Veronika Part in that role. But how will I ever find another performance so perfect?

#6 atm711


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 07:35 AM

Yes, I will join the chorus in proclaiming it a performance for the ages.  She was quite different from her earlier Giselle's...gone  was the coltishness of her earlier Giselles (which can be seen on the DVD with Malakhov) in its place was a contemplative girl, a tender-hearted girl.  Her concern for her mother in Act 1 was most palpable. There

was a very tender moment in Act 2 that stays with me---at the start of the PDD when they are facing each other, I have never seen a ballerina stand so close to her partner--I felt then that she wanted to put her head on his chest before starting.......a lovely moment, which she did in the  bows.


I thought Lane and Gorak were dazzling---she surely is a Giselle in the waiting.  Gorak's clean technique was a joy to watch.  I did feel Murphy's expression was a bit too stern  but I will forgive her for those gorgeous bourres.

#7 abatt


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 07:46 AM

Yes, atm 711, I noticed a number of instances where Vishneva put her head very close to Gomes' shoulder, chest or head.  These were small details that added up in a big way to deliver an emotional punch that most other couples lack.  If others tried the same thing, I think it might just look over the top, but with Gomes and Vishneva it comes across as completely authentic and genuine.  While we have justly been raving about Vishneva, I also want to add that Gomes was spectacular.  He made Vishneva seem weightless.  His exquisite solo in Act II was brilliantly danced.  Rarely has Albrecht's pleading with Myrta been so dramatically conveyed with such passion.

#8 nanushka


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 07:54 AM

I'd like to assent to the above points, but also add a few reservations:


•  I felt the mad scene was a bit overdone.  In particular, the stunning moment when Giselle runs into Albrecht's arms and immediately falls limp and lifeless was diminished in power by the fact that Vishneva had already fallen apparently lifeless several times earlier in the scene.  How, then, could they tell so immediately that on this particular occasion she was actually dead?


•  The release of Giselle's hair in the mad scene bordered on the ridiculous.  Susan Jones (Berthe) was basically down there brushing it out for her, there was so much obvious activity focused on it.  When Vishneva rose, her hair was gorgeous and flowing -- but that's not the point.  It should be disheveled, and only coming loose.


•  The tempi in Act II were at times too slow.  I suspect this was wholly arranged between the dancers and conductor (David LaMarche) in order to allow for the style of performance that was desired.  I think this music and these steps certainly deserve to be luxuriated in, when the performance is great enough to justify doing so (as here it was).  But at a certain point, any hint of forward momentum or musical/choreographical sense gets lost and the whole thing becomes just a series of disconnected gorgeous moments without enough propulsion.


•  The now-requisite half-curtain call / half-tableau at the end of every Vishneva-Gomes performance is becoming tiresome.  Every time, it seems, the curtain opens on the two of them grasping each other, lost in their own private world of dancerly bliss.  A tableau is one thing (e.g. the end of Romeo and Juliet, when the curtain opens again to show the lovers sprawled on the stone), but this seems over-indulgent.


These are mere quibbles, and on the whole the performance -- from Vishneva, Gomes and Gorak in particular -- was gorgeous and moving and superb.  But I did feel the need to offer a few counter-points.

#9 atm711


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 09:24 AM

Yes, Abatt-- what you say about the 'head position' is so true....."If others tried the same thing it might just look like over the top-but with V. and G. it was authentic and



I saw something similar in a Alonso/Youskevitch Giselle.  In Act 2 when Giselle throws the flower over her head, Youskevitch caught it in his outstretched hand.  In the

hands of these two superb artists it looked genuine, but in lesser hands it could have been over the top.  (By the  way, I never saw him miss)

#10 Batsuchan


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 01:42 PM

Like abatt, I am headed back tonight, and I am hoping Hallberg won’t have too much trouble lifting Semionova!

To respond to nanushka:

1) I agree with you about the mad scene being a bit overdone—on one hand, I like that Vishneva really goes crazy, but on the other hand, it does seem like an awfully long, drawn-out scene, which reduces the dramatic impact of the ending.  I think part of the problem is ABT’s staging.  I really liked how the POB version handled this scene.  It always bothers me that Albrecht, Giselle’s mom and all the other villagers just stand and do nothing for like 5 minutes while they are watching Giselle fall apart—I always feel like, “why doesn’t someone go help her?”  In the POB version, however, the villagers froze (and the lights went dark, I think), for half of the scene, so it was like a private moment Giselle’s, and then we saw how the villagers when she really goes crazy and ultimately dies.  I felt like that works much better.

2) I think I know the reason for the elaborate hair scene.  In one of the 2011 performances, Vishneva’s hair wasn’t securely fastened, so it started falling out of its bun about halfway through Act II, well before the mad scene.  As a result of that experience, I’m guessing that she overcompensated the other way—securing her hair too much, which made it difficult for Susan Jones to undo.  I did think it was interesting, however, that she left her hair half-up.  I think in the past it’s been completely loose, but I’m guessing that again, she was erring on the side of not having it fall out prematurely.

3) I agree that the tempi in Act II were very slow, but I actually wished they were even slower!  smile.png  But I think that’s really just because I wanted to see this amazing show go on forever.  In particular, I think those first overhead lifts—Gomes could have continued to bring her down ever-so-slowly (this was truly amazing), but then they would’ve ended up being behind the music.  I understand your point about a too-slow tempo robbing the scene of its forward propulsion, but here I felt like Vishneva/Gomes totally filled each second of the drawn-out music, so for me, it was wonderful.  (And I wanted more!) The way that Vishneva ever-so-slowly lifted her leg in her first arabesque was a jaw-dropping moment for me—the amount of control and strength needed to do that was astonishing.  Not everyone can do this, however, and I have seen other couples attempt a too-slow tempo and fail to match the music.

4) You might be right about the “half-curtain calls” becoming tiresome—but this is hardly unique to Vishneva/Gomes.  EVERY couple I’ve seen in every ballet this season has gotten the same half-curtain call: Kent/Bolle, Semionova/Stearns, etc.  If you disapprove of the “lost in their own world” affection they show to each other, that is certainly your prerogative, but I for one think that it is a completely honest expression of how much they enjoy dancing together and how much affection they feel for each other, and for me, it is heartwarming to see.

I could gush and gush about how impressed I was with Vishneva’s technique in Act I (though I admit some movements were not as effortless as they perhaps used to be in Act II), but what really struck me in last night’s performance was Gomes’ passion.  He is always a selfless, attentive partner with every ballerina he dances with, but when he dances with Vishneva, there is a level of excitement and emotional engagement that I don’t see from him with anyone else.  My friend who has seen Kent/Gomes in “Giselle” before was shocked to see how genuinely in love with Vishneva he looked, and another friend (a ballet newbie) was shocked to hear that they weren’t married in real life!  tongue.png

In Act II in particular, I really enjoyed the way he went from grieving deeply over Giselle’s death, to full of excitement when Giselle’s ghost appears to him, and then to absolute ecstasy when she showers him with flowers.  Vishneva’s Act II Giselle is always sort of devoid of emotions, though clearly still devoted to Albrecht, but it didn’t matter because Gomes was so very passionate.

I hate to think about this, but I’m not sure how many more years we will get to see Vishneva & Gomes together, so I certainly hope SOMEONE decides to capture them on DVD.  Recently it feels like practically every performance they give is a “performance for the ages”!

#11 abatt


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 01:52 PM

Marcelo is very involved in exhibiting all the meaning behind the flowers in this ballet.  When he first comes out in Act II, he literally strokes the flowers he is bringing the grave and touches them to his face.  I don't think any of the other Albrechts do that, and I think most would look positively silly if they tried.  On Gomes, that choice totally works.  I'm pretty sure Gomes is the only Albrecht who literally spreads his entire body over the grave and hugs the mound of earth where she is buried.  Again, for him it works.  If I saw someone else do that, I would probably roll my eyes.

#12 Kaysta


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 02:32 PM

I am so jealous that I missed Monday night. Vishneva and Marcelo are amazing together. Sounds like they had another amazing performance!

#13 canbelto


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 07:09 PM

I just returned from the Semionova/Hallberg Giselle. It was overall a very disappointing experience. It was so well-danced, and so so boring. Semionova is odd — she has such great technique but she never does anything extra other than the steps to show off the technique. Everything is just steps, steps, more steps, done in a kind of straightforward, vanilla way. Her variations were solid, she hopped across the stage without any issues, in act two her entrechats were fast and crisp, her developpe steady and controlled, but she just doesn’t do anything more to make herself stand out. In Act Two there were several times where the audience LAUGHED — the bunny hops for one elicited laughter. It’s because she made the whole act like she was this happy dancing doll. No sense of drama, no gothic mysteriousness, just checking the boxes of all the steps she should execute. David Hallberg is such a danseur noble but for the first time there was an element of narcissism to his dancing. In Act Two he made a point of sprawling on the floor numerous times with his beautiful legs and feet perfectly straight and feet pointed. It was like he was more interested in showing off his legs and feet than showing any desperation. He had trouble with the overhead lifts and only sort of lifted Semionova halfway above his head, so there wasn’t that feeling that she was like weightless. 


Oh well, sometimes you sort of need to check off who you DON’T need to see in the future. Semionova is definitely on my list of dancers I won’t go out of my way to buy a ticket for in the future.

#14 ord7916



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Posted 17 June 2014 - 07:27 PM

I was already midway through writing this when I read the above post.  My experience was quite different.  


Polina Semionova gave a stunning performance tonight.  I will say it is the second best ballet performance I've ever seen, with the first of course being Vishneva in Manon.  Among the highlights were her hopping backwards across the stage followed by a manege; her dramatic entry in Act II; and the pas de deux adagio and variation.  The audience was loving it. She transformed convincingly in the mad scene and it was a great acting job, but I kept waiting for the dancing and - this being my first Giselle - to my surprise there wasn't any.  


This was my first time seeing Hallberg and I wanted so much to love him.  He has little to do until late in the second act and while he has a couple of good moments, watching the pirouettes and jumps I kept feeling like we've seen it all before.  But the audience loved him as well.


He partnered Seminova well, and lifted her gracefully.  I was watching closely to see if he had trouble lifting her and if he did I certainly didn't notice it.  They had some chemistry at the beginning and their instant attraction was convincing, but I didn't feel it in Act II.   


The corps was absolutely brilliant in the graveyard scene, and Veronika even more so.  Gotta love her.   


The peasant pas-de-deux was danced by Yuriko Kajiya and Craig Salstein who were both great.   The other highlight was Thomas Forster as Hilarion.  It's hard to believe he was the same one who did the silly stepsister just ast week.  His death scene was wonderfully staged and wonderfully performed by everyone involved.


This was to be my last of the season, but after tonight I think I need another.   

#15 Batsuchan


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Posted 17 June 2014 - 07:46 PM

Welllll, that was an interesting contrast with last night.


95% of the performance with Semionova/Hallberg, I probably would've characterized the performance like this:  expertly executed and beautiful, and even though it was lacking the emotional heft of Monday's show, it was a performance that ABT could be proud of.


AND THEN HALLBERG OMITTED THE ENTRECHAT SIX!  There were murmurs of surprise and disappointment in my section, and the guy ahead of me even let out a disapproving "no!!"  Instead, Hallberg did the brises down the diagonal, twice, followed by some split jumps.  And no one clapped!


All evening, I had been looking forward to seeing some beautiful entrachat six from Hallberg, and he didn't do them!  I was so shocked that it totally took me out of the story.  In addition, because the brises simply did not look that impressive/exhausting, the emotional impact of Albrecht collapsing to the floor was just completely lacking, and it basically killed the drama for me.


Okay, I can understand why Hallberg/Semionova didn't even try for the stock-still overhead press lift that was so jaw-dropping last night--instead Hallberg just lifted her up, rotated in a circle and set her down--but THIS omission was a complete disappointment for me.


I totally agree with canbelto on this one.  I think I am over my initial infatuation with Semionova.  She's a gorgeous girl, and at first, I just loved her long lines, and her 100% reliable, rock-solid technique.  I even appreciated the fact that her characterizations were never over-the-top, and honest.  But since I know she's so technically impressive, now I find myself waiting for her to surprise me, to push beyond simply what is required and into what is extra and unexpected.  And so far this season, she hasn't.


This was especially apparent to me tonight, in contrast to last night's Act I Vishneva who was REALLY giving it all she had--to astounding effect.  In her variation, Vishneva effortlessly dipped into a 180 degree penchee arabesque and pulled off double pirouettes in attitude easy as can be, but Semionova didn't try for the deep arabesque and only did singles.  By the time Vishneva did her hops on pointe, the audience was in a frenzy.  Not so tonight.


The only times I've seen Semionova seem like she was genuinely "into" a performance and pushing for more was her first Swan Lake (with Gomes) and last year's Sylvia.  So I do think she is capable of giving more, but only when she is paired with someone who can comfortably partner her, allowing her to be free--and there are not many partners who can do that.


This being said, I did really like Semionova's mad scene;  I felt like it was the most emotionally engaged I've seen her all season, and it wasn't overdone.  I also MUCH preferred the fact that her hair was completely loose--but it did almost fall out before her mother undid it.


In Act II, Part was great as Myrta.  I've always thought she has a fabulous jump, and she used it to great effect tonight.


For me, there wasn't as much contrast between Semionova's characterization of Giselle-the-girl and Giselle-the-wili--she even had the flowers in her hair in Act II.  Those hops in a circle Giselle does when she first appears were thrilling, but then the side-to-side steps she did (glissades?) punctuated by jumps on either end seemed very off the music to me--too much emphasis on the in-between steps and not enough on the jumps which really make Giselle look weightless.


In the pas de deux, they took the tempi much faster than last night, and I realized anew how much harder it is to do things slowly.  Those initial steps Giselle does around a kneeling Albrecht--when she raises onto pointe and developpes her other leg--when the tempi is a lot slower you really have to hold the balances longer.  You need so much control and strength to take it as slowly as Vishneva and Gomes dared to do last night.  


Last year I attended a talk at ABT with Semionova, and I was struck when she said that she wished she had attended the Vaganova academy (instead of the Bolshoi academy) because she really admires the way they use their arms and upper body.  This came to my mind as I watched her Act II tonight.  Semionova is long-limbed, and yet her arms didn't have the same fluidity--and I dare say poetry--as Vishneva's seemed to have last night.


Perhaps I am being overly harsh--but this is what happens when you see a "performance for the ages" followed by one that is merely good.  I do wish ABT would pair Semionova with Bolle instead--or even with Shklyarov.  I think they have the potential for great chemistry, which I think would push Semionova to be more engaging.



I've got three more Giselle's left, so hopefully they will be more fulfilling!

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