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    Retired professional dancer, now avid ballet goer
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  1. I saw the Brandt and Trenary performances. I would have liked to see Shevchenko as well to get a look at all three debuts, but I had to forego one due to time constraints and ultimately decided Shevchenko was the one I was least interested to see (she’s a lovely dancer but not a natural Giselle to me, and I’ve also seen her in many big ballerina roles already unlike the other two). Of the two shows I saw, I definitely preferred the matinee, though I think Brandt’s was undoubtedly the superior technical performance. Her rigorous technical command is truly impressive; I don’t think I can recall ever seeing someone pull up into relevé out of those attitude chugs en dehors, and the amount of control required for her to sail through that turn as she did is just enormous. I liked Royal more than Cornejo as Albrecht. He’s not the cleanest, or the most powerful, but he has such compelling lines and quality of movement. My only real complaint is that he lacked the strength and elevation to achieve two distinct beats in the double cabrioles in the Act 2 variation—I know it’s hard with those long legs but I was sitting super close (second row for both shows) and definitely did not see enough air between the legs to feel I could call those doubles. On the other hand, he managed a turn in attitude en dehors out of the pirouette while Cornejo simply opened his leg. More than anything, I just loved his interpretation of the character and the way the character dynamics came together in this cast. Royal seemed way more into Giselle, whereas Cornejo just read as a bit of a womanizer whose eye is on Giselle for the moment (definitely a valid interpretation of the role but one that does make it a lot harder to root for him in the second act). And Royal seemed more patrician than Cornejo, which I liked (less rich bro who likes slumming it with the local yokels, more sheltered noble putting himself in an environment where he’s deeply uncomfortable for the sake of this girl he can’t stop thinking about). There’s a moment where Wilfred is trying to convince Albrecht to quit the cosplay and go home, and Royal’s Albrecht just stared cooly at Ribagorda for a full eight counts without doing anything else, until Wilfred backed off—it was chilling. I think the differences in Bathilde and Hilarion casting amplified the two diverging interpretations as well. Lavine’s Bathilde was so deliciously snobbish and bossy that Albrecht’s preference for Giselle made sense, whereas Loyola was so warm and lovely in the role that Brandt’s sort of dispassionate Giselle lacked appeal in comparison. On the other side of things, while I loved Ischuck’s Hilarion, I was surprised to find myself enjoying Frenette’s even more. He was so annoying, especially in his moment of taunting Albrecht with his sword! It just helped up Albrecht’s appeal by comparison. There were a few things about the partnering that I preferred in the matinee. I personally did not love the slow-rising approach to the angel pressage that Cornejo and Brandt took, though knowing the mechanics of partnering I’m aware of how much more challenging it is to do the lift that way—it just looked a bit hydraulic-lifty to me, and I’d rather see the pose itself than the ascent. The first time they did it I thought there might be a hand placement issue and that Cornejo was struggling to get her up; it wasn’t until the repeat that I realized it was a stylistic choice. And I think Trenary and Royal had much better musicality in all the partnering than Brandt and Cornejo did. As for the Giselles themselves, I really did just prefer Trenary’s interpretation to Brandt’s; it was unconventional but so much more interesting and compelling. Trenary was just so much more human and charming. I could really understand why a guy would risk it all to hang out with this girl, or why everyone in the village wants to be her best friend—she was magnetic. I loved her moment with Bathilde’s dress; most dancers usually stroke or hug the dress like they’re just mindlessly wooed by all the luxury, but Trenary was sort of looking at the stitching like she’s trying to figure out how to make one for herself at home. And the anger mixed in with the grief during the mad scene was brilliant. I wish more Giselles were a bit angry about what’s happened to them. Trenary was maybe not quite phantomlike enough in the second act, but I did like this idea that part of what makes her succeed in her attempt to save Albrecht is not just her love for him but that she has the backbone to defy Myrta. It makes a kind of interesting thematic connection to the first act and her dynamic with Berthe who is always controlling her dancing. Again, it’s not the typical interpretation of the choreography or characters but it has a lot of internal logic and thematic cohesion. It’s been awhile since a production of Giselle made me think this much about the characters or the story. In contrast, Brandt’s interpretation, very by-the-book (an innocent and naive living Giselle becomes a tragic and frail spirit Giselle), felt a bit more doll-like and detached, a bit less rich or affecting. I spent a lot of time in the Brandt performance going “wow” but it was Trenary’s performance that moved me to tears, even with the big snafu in the Spessivtseva hops. Secondary cast was a bit more mixed. I found Hoven more charming in peasant pas even though he had some sloppy fifths and only managed one rotation in his final tour en l’air in passé. McBride was inconsistent and not very dynamic; Williams was gorgeous, though personally I like a more boisterous approach to peasant pas (would have LOVED to see Williams’ Myrta given that coolness and poise). Petersen as Myrta was definitely shaky in the promenades both nights but strong in later parts of the act. More than anything I felt she lacked the presence and command of a great Myrta, but I think that will come in time and this was a promising start. I thought Li was a lovely Moyna in the evening and Loyola was a lovely Zulma in the afternoon (her renversé diagonal was excellent), but didn’t find either of their partners remarkable. Can’t remember who replaced Petersen as Zulma in the evening when Petersen replaced Shevchenko as Myrta. Richardson’s Moyna in the matinee was sluggish for me; she did one less beat in her assemblés than dancers in that role usually do these days.
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