Jane Simpson

RDB's new Giselle

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In a long interview in today's Berlingske Silja Schandorff reveals that  there will be 3 principal casts in the new  production of Giselle which she and Nikolaj Hubbe are preparing:

 

J'aime Crandall and Ulrik Birkkjaer

Holly Dorger and Gregory Dean

Ida Praetorius and Andreas Kaas

 

The production opens on October 29th.

 

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Thank you, Jane. Very interesting read.

 

Also, lovely to see the main casting given away already, some surprises in between. Very intrigued by the Dorger/Dean pair-up, I would perhaps have expected Dean to go with Crandall instead, I found them perfect together for the Romantic style in La Sylphide this spring, but I have high hopes for his may be partnership with Dorger as well. 

Edited by Syrene Hvid

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 Great article. Thanks for the heads-up, Jane! 

 

Not terribly surprised at the casting - really excited, though, there's not a single pair I wouldn't love to see. I also found the part about the supporting cast interesting: 

 

»Det er så vigtigt, at holdet rundt om hovedparret fungerer som en helhed. Og for mig har det altid været vigtigt at lave en baggrundshistorie inde i hovedet for den person, jeg fremstillede på scenen, så hun reagerede rigtigt i forhold til de andre. Det kan være små ting, som publikum ikke tænker over, men som gør, at relationerne på scenen fungerer. Så danserne skal altid have en historie med sig i tankerne, som de kender ned til mindste detalje.« -

 

(Quick translation: "It's so important that the cast around the main pair works as a whole. And to me, it's always been important to create a background story in the mind of the person I portrayed on stage so she'd react properly in relation to the others. It can be small things that the audience won't notice but which make the relations on stage work. So the dancers must always have a story in their thoughts that they know down to the smallest details.") 

 

I have a feeling I'm going to love this version of Giselle because this type of narrative coherency makes me incredibly happy. :) Can't wait. 

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Main couple casting up for Giselle. They're really beginning to publish these in good time this season. Now we just need supporting cast...

 

First cast: Ida Praetorius as Giselle, Andreas Kaas as Albrecht. Dancing on 29/10, 10/11 and 15/11, meaning they will be the cast broadcasted to cinemas.

Second cast: J'aime Crandall as Giselle, Gregory Dean as Albrecht. Dancing on 30/10, 12/11 and 19/11.

Third cast: Holly Dorger as Giselle, Ulrik Birkkjær as Albrecht. Dancing on 2/11 and 17/11.

 

I'm so fortunate that I get to see all three casts (one in cinemas), very excited about this!

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Myrtha casting now announced:

 

Kizzy Matiakis with Praetoris/Kass

Amy Watson with Crandall/Dean

Hilary Guswiler with Dorger/Birkkjaer

 

The first two were widely expected but Guswiler is perhaps a surprise - good to see her getting  such an important role again.

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Ooo, thanks for the info. Very excited for Matiakis in first cast. Looking forward to seeing her in the broadcast!

 

I'll be seeing both Watson and Guswiler, since I'm seeing the show on the 2nd and 12th. Especially very excited to see Guswiler in such a big role! I always loved her first sylph.

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Photographs of all 3 casts have now appeared on the theatre's website

 

Some fine pictures  but I do wish they would caption them!

 

 

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Pretty pictures. Would have dearly liked a broader representation of the three casts but hey, everyone looks fantastic. Mia Steensgaard's costumes are gorgeous - visually, this is just beautiful.

 

Happy to see a lot of Sebastian Haynes there - and Kizzy Matiakis looks awesome as Myrtha! I'm so ready to watch this!

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I loved the interview with Holly Dorger (a dancer entirely unknown to me). I wish I could hop on a plane and see her Giselle....

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Drew, I too really adored the interview with Dorger. I'm seeing her debut on the 2nd and feeling very excited about it. I'll make sure to report back.

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So how was the big premiere-telecast with Ida & Andreas last Saturday? 

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1 hour ago, Natalia said:

So how was the big premiere-telecast with Ida & Andreas last Saturday? 

 

The premiere wasn't broadcast and reviews so far are, unfortunately, hard to come by. Eva Kistrup posted hers quickly after: http://danceviewtimes.typepad.com/eva_kistrup/2016/10/quality-time.html

 

The performance got a very mixed reception from Jyllandsposten with three stars out of six. 

 

Can't wait to read other reports on it...

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First, raw impressions...

 

I saw Holly Dorger's debut last night and I personally found the entire performance a perfect Giselle.

 

I'm not sure I really appreciated the new sets until second act, but in retrospect they made perfect sense in first act as well and were very beautiful. The costumes were all around gorgeous, especially the willi ones, wow. 

 

Yesterday's main cast were, of course, Dorger as Giselle, Ulrik Birkkjær as Albrecht, an amazing Magnus Christoffersen as Hilarion, Amy Watson as Myrtha and strong powerhouses Caroline Baldwin and Jonathan Chmelensky in the peasant pas de deux, with Emma Håkansson and Kaledora Fontana as first willis. An all-over very strong cast. 

 

I loved Dorger as Giselle, she created the most coherent picture of the character while also dancing the role beautifully. She was Giselle, not Giselle the girl in first act and Giselle the willi in second act, but throughout just WAS Giselle, I can't say it any better. In first act she was completely smitten and smiling and hating her heart condition, because she just wanted to dance. She was so charming to look at, if you ask me. Her variation was just beautiful with some very swift, floating turns at the end, earning one of the biggest applauses of the night. Her mad scene was its complete opposition, jagged and full of anger and hurt. The two juxtaposed perfectly and created a full circle of character development, leading up to the second act. 

 

Opposite of Giselle stands Birkkjær's Albrect. A real sleak one. All throughout first act I kept thinking I didn't like his portrayal, but when it all came together and it turned out to be a maturing arc for Albrecht too, I realised that I actually loved his portrayal, even if I hated the character himself. They had the most solid partnering and really fit each other, I bought their bond one hundred percent and in the second act, I was even rooting for the both of them, together. He danced wonderfully, especially when Albrect and Giselle danced for Myrtha, so much power and feeling - and he must have springs under his feet! Those jumps up and down... 

 

Watson was a perfect Myrtha and this is the best I've seen her dance ever! The role fitted her so well.

 

Every part with the willis was amazing, very eerie and atmosperic. At times even scary. The corps did very well, as did the two first willis in their debut. Separately I thought they did well, although they weren't always in sync, when dancing side by side. 

 

All in all, I was floored by both acts, but sit with most vivid memories of the last part of the second one. It was full of emotion, really tore my heart apart. The moment where Dorger threw the lilies was jaw-droppingly stunning. As was the entire section where she was turned into a willi. 

 

I was crying a little at the end, when the sun rose and Dorger's face lit up in a smile, knowing Albrect was saved. It was a poignant scene and as Albrect was left behind with the flower from act one, I was done for. 

 

I loved it. 

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While I'm glad I'll get to see both first and second cast, I'm still so, so sad that I'll miss Holly Dorger and Ulrik Birkkjær. Sounds like they created a beautiful performance. Thanks for getting into both dancing and acting, Syrene. 

 

Aside from JP, by the way, reviewers in Denmark generally give Giselle stellar reviews, typically 5/6 stars. There seems to be a consensus regarding Ida Praetorius' dramatic talent in particular, though I wish they'd tell me more about the dancing (generally speaking, not just regarding Praetorius). It's a mystery to me, why with so many previous ballets, both technique and acting seemed important to Danish reviewers where as with Giselle, all they really seem to notice in terms of the actual dancing is the corps whenever anyone's out of sync. 

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On 4/11/2016 at 6:50 AM, KNA said:

It's a mystery to me, why with so many previous ballets, both technique and acting seemed important to Danish reviewers where as with Giselle, all they really seem to notice in terms of the actual dancing is the corps whenever anyone's out of sync. 

 

You are right about this, KNA, and, I think, not just regarding Giselle. Danish reviews suffer in general from a lack of comment on the quality of the dancing, except on what is easy for the eye to see, namely whether the corps is in sync or not, like you said.

There are probably more reasons for that, one being that the readership is not interested in or even able to  understand a description of the dance. We are all much more expert in appreciating acting, and our vocabulary around acting is far more ready. This might also apply on the reviewer himself: It actually takes quite an expert to appreciate dancing AND to be able to put it into words. To get beyond vague appraisals like "beautiful" or "impressive" is where the true challenge lies. 
Other reasons lie, of course, in the very limited space left to art reviews nowadays. The main focus, therefore, will be on the staging and the direction (and with the many different casts, all with a very limited number of performances, it might also appear a bit futile to focus a lot on any particular dancer...). 
There is a last and maybe very Danish reason for focusing so much on the acting: RDB has a long and strong tradition for story-telling ballets, where mime and acting play a major role. The heritage of Bournonville has heavily influenced the choice of repertoire and the taste of the audience: The Danes love story ballets, and in a story ballet good acting is crucial. In this kind of repertoire it is indeed possible to become a beloved dancer without being a brilliant technician, whereas the opposite is, I dare to say, nearly impossible. If you can't move the heart of the audience (or make people laugh), a dancer shouldn't build on a career in the RDB. Erik Bruhn might be an exception - he was, however, for the very same reason, not popular with everybody, not until he became famous abroad, that is... (I haven't seen him live, though, so I might not be the right person to say so, but on film his acting looks a bit wooden, to me at least, who hasn't experienced his indisputable charisma on stage). Balanchine had an early encounter with the RDB where he found a sort of dancers, who could in many ways fulfil his technical demands of speed and swiftness. But he didn't like the overall impression. It was apparently too soft and too expressive, I suppose the dancers put too much "meaning" into the movements, and thus deprived the movements of their neutral quality, their "pure dance" quality.
 

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In the Danish online magazine POV (Point of View Internationally) they have posted an interesting and very detailed review of Hübbe and Schandorff's staging of Giselle by Alexander Meinertz (unfortunately in Danish) :

 

http://pov.international/den-sidste-romantiker/

 

 

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Alexander Meinertz is not easy to please so a 6 star review from him is quite an accolade as well as quite a surprise! Run this through Google translate - it's an amazing read.

 

 

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Thanks so much for your interesting perspective on my thoughts regarding reviewer focus, Anne! I think this part especially rings true to me: 

 

34 minutes ago, Anne said:


There is a last and maybe very Danish reason for focusing so much on the acting: RDB has a long and strong tradition for story-telling ballets, where mime and acting play a major role. The heritage of Bournonville has heavily influenced the choice of repertoire and the taste of the audience: The Danes love story ballets, and in a story ballet good acting is crucial. In this kind of repertoire it is indeed possible to become a beloved dancer without being a brilliant technician, whereas the opposite is, I dare to say, nearly impossible. 
 

 

Being a part of 'the new' audience who haven't been quite so attuned to the traditional Danish style probably means that I'm not completely in the category of 'Danes' you describe. I want more than good story telling! I'm in love with the more experimental setups and with dancers like Holly Dorger and J'aime Crandall who take my breath away with speed and pyrotechnics. Going by audience's response to for example J'aime Crandall's Kitri earlier this year, I'd say I'm not alone, either. This doesn't mean that I don't like traditions, I wish we could focus on both aspects, I guess. I can definitely appreciate the points you made, though, it might just be the way of things! 

 

Did you ever see Samuel Rees' pop-up? It was apropos this discussion, I think. 

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We attended the performance yesterday. Despite it being a full house, we'd gotten really good seats on the second row. 

 

First act didn't work for me quite as effortlessly as last time, I think it was J'aime Crandall's characterisation opposite Gregory Dean's very sympathetic Albrecht - her expressions weren't quite innocent enough to convince me that her Giselle really didn't know Albrecht's secret and although I bought Dean's Albrecht as a nobel who just wanted to have fun, he seemed too caring to really be so careless with her feelings in the matter. However, the dancing was generally very beautiful, at least looked that way to me, very sharp and secure. Both Dean and Crandall are such strong dancers with very complimenting expressions. I saw them together in La Sylphide when it was on tour - a stellar performance and they didn't fit each other any less here. I really think they're a match to be developed. 

 

For me, the greatest aspects of Crandall's first act Giselle was her focus on the character's illness and then, of course, her beautiful and very cleanly performed mad scene. I was crying a little when the lights went up. 

 

Other shout-outs for the first act go to Lis Jeppesen as Giselle's mother. What a beautifully performed and deeply gripping character performance. She owned every moment that featured her in just the slightest. 

 

Jonathan Chmelensky made a strong and commanding Hilarion, although his real moment to shine didn't come until the second act. 

 

Heather Dunn and Alexander Bozinoff were wonderful in the peasant pas de deux and both hit some goosebump-inducing marks. 

 

However, the real thrill of tonight's performance was the second act. It was hauntingly beautiful, both danced and performed with striking clarity of movement and story-development. 

 

Once again, Amy Watson was Myrtha and she really did float in the air like a ghost queen. She did some striking solos and one of her - I think it was some kind of coda, please don't hold me up on it, though - was just breathtaking in its execution. She was on an absolute high tonight and I was so glad to see these two performances of hers, to fully appreciate her strengths as a dancer. 

 

Both Kizzy Matiakis and Caroline Baldwin danced some eerie and airy-light variations as first willis, where especially Matiakis seemed to master the steps with a great superiority and elegance. 

 

The corps also did really well as the willis and once again created an eerie, ghostly atmosphere. I really do like the use of the doors, especially those in the back, I think they function well in the setting and seeing those willis enter really made my blood run cold, both times I've seen it now. 

 

Chmelensky delivered a completely awe-inspiring death/demise scene as Hilarion. His high leaps and powerful jumps were of another world, not to mention the utter despair written all over his face. It was chilling. A very, very strong performance and one of the night's real highlights. 

 

A whole row of highlights were delivered by Crandall and Dean who truly brought out the tragic beauty in this act. From the moment Giselle was turned into a willi, Crandall bending almost to the ground before doing some speedy turns on one foot, she simply turned into a dancer of another calibre. Of another essence. She floated like air across the stage and when Dean lifted her above his head the first time it was without a single wobble. His arms stretched, she just hang there like an otherworldly being. I was so immensely impressed with her, it was a stunning feat how she performed Giselle as a willi. 

 

Dean also really shone and his endless jump up and down sequence was effortless and very impressive to witness, I wanted to start applauding him halfway through! At the end, he also really nailed the scene where Giselle keeps returning to him with flowers before dawn and there was an air of realisation, awareness about him that ended the performance on a hopeful note. 

 

All in all, I was a very happy balletomane, when returning to our hotel. 

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7 hours ago, KNA said:

Being a part of 'the new' audience who haven't been quite so attuned to the traditional Danish style probably means that I'm not completely in the category of 'Danes' you describe. I want more than good story telling! I'm in love with the more experimental setups and with dancers like Holly Dorger and J'aime Crandall who take my breath away with speed and pyrotechnics. Going by audience's response to for example J'aime Crandall's Kitri earlier this year, I'd say I'm not alone, either. This doesn't mean that I don't like traditions, I wish we could focus on both aspects, I guess. I can definitely appreciate the points you made, though, it might just be the way of things! 

 

I think we agree totally on the point of view that both aspects deserve to be equally in focus. But I don't think it has necessarily anything to do with one's sympathies regarding traditional or experimental approach to the classics, as even a very modernized version has to be dramatically convincing.
You mention Crandall's and Dorger's Kitri as an example where pyrotechnics were highly appreciated by the audience, and I believe you. In this case, however, bravura is the very raison d'être of the ballet, as the story in itself is so silly that you can only accept it if the steps are brillianly executed. Yet, wouldn't it be an even worse shortcoming, if the dancers performed the steps technically perfectly but without charm or spirits? Wouldn't that degrade it to something even closer to a not-art experience than it already is? (Please don't misunderstand me, I'm no puritan: I do enjoy a well performed Don Quixote immensely!)

 

7 hours ago, KNA said:

Did you ever see Samuel Rees' pop-up? It was apropos this discussion, I think. 

 

No, I'm afraid I didn't. I haven't seen any of the pop-ups by Corpus. It seems I have missed out on something important. I looked it up on the theatre's homepage, where it said something about playing with rules and conventions and discussing what actually makes out the art form dance.

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1 hour ago, Anne said:

 

I think we agree totally on the point of view that both aspects deserve to be equally in focus. But I don't think it has necessarily anything to do with one's sympathies regarding traditional or experimental approach to the classics, as even a very modernized version has to be dramatically convincing.

 

 

I agree with you completely! I went about it in a clumsy way, I think, but I mostly wanted to note that though I'm a Dane myself, story-telling isn't more important to me than other aspects of ballet. I definitely don't think Crandall would have gotten the response she did if she'd been flat in terms of acting, pyrotechnics or not. 

 

As for Rees' pop-up, he tackled the issues of foreign influences on traditions in the RDB and what it meant to Danish and foreign dancers, respectively! It brought forward some really interesting angles, I think. Also, this has gone completely off topic now - sorry! I'll stop talking and read Syrene's review instead, though I think we agree on pretty much every point. We did discuss it until after midnight, after all. ;) 

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Yes, you are right - we are a bit off topic now. But thanks anyway for updating me on the pop-up by Rees! It sounds interesting.

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Did anyone else go see the cinema broadcast or saw the show at the theatre?

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I went, and I was happy I did! My expectations were rather low because I hadn't been too happy with the photographs I'd seen. I'm still not in love with the costumes in act 1. Giselle's dress looks more like the costume of a water nymph from 2nd act of "Napoli", and the attire of the aristocratic ladies makes them look like enormous, colourful beetles dressed up for a horse ride with their funny looking jockey caps. 

 

But apart from all that the overall aesthetic impression is very beautiful, though maybe a little too much on the gloomy side in the first half of act 1 where the music is still optimistic, simple and happy. But this sinister, artificial  and slightly claustrophobic scenery harmonizes well with what happens later when everything, literally, falls apart and reveals a barren landscape: a world somewhere between cityscape and landscape, between indoor and outdoor. The willies are not far away in the forest - they are much closer, right behind you, maybe even in your own back yard: the black doors in the backdrop gauze are not doors through which you can escape, no, they are doors through which the willies enter your world, and from them there is no escape - except through forgiving and eternal love, as represented by Giselle. The barren landscape behind the stage is changing all the time, and I would love to see it again to be able to find out exactly why it changes at certain times. At one point what in the beginning looks like a battlefield from WW1 with naked trees on a blurred background suddenly lights up and reveals a breathtakingly beautiful mountain landscape bathed in a red-golden light. I cannot remember what exactly happened in this rather short moment where the claustrophobic room opened up to a wide, beautiful but still bleak mountain world. Maybe somebody can help?

 

The willies of this production are the most scary ones I have experienced, and not because the look revengeful, many of them did, but more because they looked so completely frozen with grief. This was clearly visible in the expressive eyes of Kizzi Mattiakis' Myrtha. When I saw her in the former production of Giselle she was more the icy bitch, but her Myrtha here simply cannot do anything else than what she does: Torture and kill men, maybe to relieve herself from the pain that doesn't give her a moment's rest and kills any other feeling in her.

 

Ida Praetorius was a very young Giselle, still a girl prone to giggles but in any other aspect an endearing creature with a healthy appetite for life. She is a wonderful dancer who moves with a charming ease and lightness and who has a refreshing artlessness to her manners. I'm sure she has  potential to develop even further, and comes time she hopefully gets the boldness to play more with the steps, daring to either drag or fasten the phrases, to postpone the ending of a movement or a balance till the very last moment - all these things that give the dance light and shadow. I think she has it in her, this deep musicality, which allows for irregularities without being tasteless. Around her evolve other talented dancers: Sebastian Haynes as a very sympathetic Hilarion, who is very much like herself, and therefore stands no chance when Andreas Kaas' Albrecht turns up with his cunning manners and expert courtship. This Albrecht is not a villain but he knows what he does and has just not thought very much about the consequences. His grief and his remorse is true and one hopes for him that his nightly experience with the willies and the enduring and rescuing love of Giselle will give him the freedom to choose his own life - and hopefully another wife than Femke Mølbach's calculating and blasée Bathilde. Both Haynes and Kaas have an enormous capacity for bouncing and floating on the air, which is asked for in the 2nd act. They are lovely dancers, and so is Jonathan Chmelensky who partnered the equally delightful Caroline Baldwin in the peasant pas de deux in act 1. 

 

After the transmission I had hoped for a cast list but it ran over the screen so quickly that no one had a chance to read it: It is an insult to the dancers! I would very much like to know who danced the two solo willies. One of them was particularly good. Can anybody help?

Edited by Anne

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