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Giselle - Oct. 21/24

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I went last night.

My front row seat was practically on the stage--as in, one could use the ledge at the very front of the stage as a convenient program-holding shelf (!).

I liked it very much, though I though Rasta Thomas's acting was a bit "thin" at times.

Michelle Jiminez's mad scene was spectacular, and more than enough to make up for some other furrowed-brow overacting moments.

Overall the company looked very sharp to me.

The peasant pdd couple (Laura Urguelles and ???) was terrific.

The hunting scene featured a dog, who also paraded through the lobby at intermission. I will admit thinking, as the dog entered, "OK, did somebody offer to give WB a humongous donation if their dog could be in the show?"

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Giselle (Genn/Webre, after Perrot/Coralli/Petipa)

The Washington Ballet

Kennedy Center, Washington, DC

October 21, 2004 (official premiere)


Giselle – Michele Jimenez

Albrecht – Rasta Thomas *

Hilarion – Duncan Cooper *

Peasant Pas de Deux – Laura Urgelles & Jonathan Jordan

Berthe, Giseelle’s mother – Rebecca Wright

Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis – Erin Mahoney

Zulma – Brianne Bland

Moyna – Laura Urgelles

* = guest from Dance Theater of Harlem

The Washington Ballet entered a new era last night, with a radiant performance of a ‘classic’ full-evening-length ballet, Giselle. After nearly thirty years of dancing mainly one-act contemporary ballets with simple costumes and minimal decoration, the curtain finally rose last night on a richly detailed, colorful and (gasp!) realistic German village! That fact alone caused me to think: “Hey, Washington finally has a classically-oriented permanent ballet troupe. It’s about time!”

Last night’s opening performance was nothing short of a wonder. Wonder at the richly-nuanced performance of Michele Jimenez in the title role, especially her heart-breaking Mad Scene. Wonder at the fact that it took us Washingtonians almost ten years to finally see the fruition of one-time ‘child prodigy’ Rasta Thomas performing in a full-length classical role, with powerful acting and amazing technique (those brises voles in the Act II coda…shades of Baryshnikov!). Wonder at the strength of the corps de ballet, moving as one in the Pas des Wilis. Wonder at the clarity and distinction of the mime by Rebecca Wright and other character artists. Wonder at the generous, full-bodied dancing – those soaring jetes! – by tall Erin Mahoney as Myrtha. Wonder at the filigreed technique of Laura Urgelles and Jonathan Jordan in the Act I ‘Peasant Pas de Deux’! With all of these blessings, it is NOT a wonder that the appreciative audience gave it an instantaneous standing ovation, with many loud ‘bravos’ noticeable.

No, it wasn’t perfection. Jimenez’s Act I solo was tentative, with a well-camouflaged drop to one knee after the second double pirouette & a rather stiff and tentative diagonal on pointe. (On the other hand, her solo sections within the Act II pas de deux were spot-on.) The addition of men to the Act I waltz for Giselle and her grape-harvesting female friends took away from the clarity and charm of that section; to make room for the men, the usual lone semicircle is ‘doubled,’ taking away from the uniform crispness of the original choreography. The orchestra was on tape. The female corps of Act II Wilis, while well synchronized, lacked the ‘melting’ transitional movements that one sees at the Kirov-Mariinsky. But that’s just nit picking. What matters most is the ‘macro’ fact that the Washington Ballet is finally offering its tradition-starved audiences the ‘classics’…beyond the annual Nutcracker kiddie fest, that is. Terpsichore now smiles on this city, in a more permanent manner! Could a full-length, traditional Swan Lake be too far behind?

Natalia Nabatova

Washington, DC

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Natalia, thanks for posting! I, too, was delighted by the performance, especially as this was the company premiere.

The Wilis, for example, were a lot more together than some big companies I could name :P ; ditto in ensembles like the Act I pas de quatre. Michele Jimenez as Giselle brought an explosive energy to her solos, fervor to the great Mad Scene, and a touching lyricism to her dancing. I thought Rasta Thomas was technically up to the mark, but dramatically unexpressive. (btw, Koshka, I didn't get the feeling that Jimenez was overacting, so much as projecting to the house; I can see where it might have felt overdone from the first row, but from further up it came across just great.)

I'd have been happier with live orchestra instead of canned, base-boomy sound. Other than that, I felt that the production worked great on all levels. Looks like we've got a "new" Classical dance company in town, and what impressed me most is that they nailed it the first time out of the starting gate.

Edited by Mike Gunther
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Did anybody see the other casts? The more Giselles the better :( It says a lot for the company that they were able to put together four different castings for this ballet!

I loved the Sun. matinee with Brianne Brand/Jonathan Jordan as Giselle/Albrecht, Kara Cooper and Brian Malek in Peasant pdd, Morgann Rose as Myrtha. Come on, Fri. (pm) / Sat. (a.m.) fans - say a few words pleeze!

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Good to see you again, Mike.

Thanks to all for these reviews -- there's always time for more :)

Until we hear from more people here, this is a review of all casts by George Jackson for DanceView Times:

The "Giselle" Diaries

The visual production was traditional. Most handsome was Kevin Meek's silvery lighting of the fogscape for the haunted opening of Act 2, and for the incipient, wine tinted dawn that concludes the ballet. The sets by Simon Pastukh and the costumes by Galina Solovyeva came via Indianapolis from the Kirov/Maryinsky workshop in Russia. The recorded music sounded patchy and was unworthy of the rest of the performance and production. Credited for the staging was the "Coppelia" team of Charla Genn and Mr. Webre. Additional coaches included Beverley Bagg, Hilary Cartwright and Rebecca Wright. The proceedings, choreographic and dramatic, were mostly the ones sanctioned by convention. A few corps passages had been lengthened, but in the manner of the original.

The night's leading Wilis, the ghost brides, were Erin Mahoney as a tall, imposing, angry enough Myrtha, not quite comfortable in fast passages and with long balances; Brianne Bland as a very clean, compact Zulma with ready attack; and Ms. Urguelles doubling as Moyna. Rebecca Wright was too much the down-to-earth peasant as Giselle's mother; didn't she share even one gene of elegance with her daughter? John Goding's Duke was rather uncommanding. In reference to the real world, the Duke is the top individual on stage and must seem so. Morgann Rose, as his daughter enfianced to Albrecht, had no problem taking her proper place. Albrecht couldn't have employed a more suitable squire than Luis Torres's Wilfred. These "minor" roles can be key in giving a production coherence.

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Well! I am very glad to see that Morgann Rose received note by

the papers. I sent an enthusiastic email to WSB when I saw her

dance in 7 x 7 as a studio member. She magnetically draws the

eye. In fact, she reminded me very much of Katita Waldo of SFB.

They have dramatically different lines, but there's something about

that stage quality.

Overall, I was so absolutely proud to see our very own in-town

ballet company dancing a real classic for the first time. This

comment will temper my next picky statements. The acting of

the company overall was very good. The port de bras of the

corp could do for extra work. At fast transitions, they lose their

beautiful carriage. Of course, I've seen the Bolshoi blow it on

occasion, so maybe it was just an off night. Speaking of off

nights, I wonder if Jimenez was having problems with her feet

on Preview Night. As for Urguelles and Jordan, hmm. As

individual dancers they were very exciting and excellent to

watch. Their timing in partnering bothered me. Either she's

fast, or he's slow. It depends on how one interpeted the music.

I promise to be a loyal supporter of WSB as long as I am in

town. Anything for to have a live orchestra.

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