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2015-16 season

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Well, newsflash, ballet fans. Contrary to all expectations, I found McGee Maddox to be the most satisfying Albrecht the National Ballet of Canada fielded during this run of Giselle. Yes, he had the lowest and heaviest jumps of the lot. Yes, initially it was Svetlana Lunkina's Giselle who was drawing out Maddox's Albrecht, and not the other way around. And no, he doesn't look anything like a ballet aristocrat. But I stopped to consider that once upon a time exceptional heroism in battle was rewarded with land and titles (my grandfather was immensely proud of the heroic deed behind his family crest :)), and I could readily imagine an ancestor of Maddox's being strong enough to ride a horse while wearing full armor and wielding a big ax. Despite being all wrong for the role in theory, Maddox had ardor, sincerity, complete dramatic investment, romantic longing and even some épaulement. At last Piotr Stanczyk's intense and emotional Hilarion had a convincing rival, and when they butted heads the possibility that blood might be drawn seemed plenty real. The principals, including Heather Ogden's ferocious Myrtha, were firing on all cylinders, and the performance that resulted was, frankly, gripping.

(At her second performance Lunkina took the matter of unpinning her hair into her own hands. The necklace, flowers and pins came off in one fell swoop, and by the time she hit the ground, Berthe's work had been done for her. Technically, it was a quite breathtaking stagecraft.)

I am also happy to report that in her second performance Elena Lobsanova's jumping had improved noticeably. I wouldn't be surprised if anxiety had kept her awake the night before her debut and weakened her past adrenaline's ability to compensate, whereas the second time around she was no longer operating at such a disadvantage. Now if she could just shed the tension in the index finger of her right hand...

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I could never report as fully or articulately as volcanohunter, but did want to comment briefly on the performance yesterday, which was both the last of the season and the premiere for Jurgita Dronina as Giselle.

I have quite enjoyed Dronina this season, and Giselle did not disappoint. No technical issues that I could see (though I would not have expected any!). In the "mad scene" her Giselle went mad quite quickly - don't know that I've seen it portrayed quite that way before. Certainly was convincing!

I thought James did very well overall, but on reflection perhaps he wasn't as sympathetic as he could have been in the first act volcanohunter - however he danced it so well I could forgive him this time.

Wilfred was danced by Ben Rudisin, who needs to learn a few things about portraying a character. He has some good opportunities for expression which unfortunately he did not utilize. Nerves?

Don't know that I've ever seen such a "mean guy" Hilarion - however that is the way Renna portrayed him as you mention above. Probably one of the better performances I've seen from Renna. I would imagine his dancing quite different from that of say Campbell of course - but if a "mean guy" was the intent, Renna did it well.

Giselle' friends in the first act were Selene Guerrero-Trujillo/Rui Huang and Christopher Gerty/Ethan Watts. Again I would agree with volcanohunter. I thought the women were very accomplished - the men inconsistent and perhaps not quite ready for the roles. Clearly they have potential, but there were some bobbles. I always enjoy seeing Huang in any kind of a featured role - I watched her with the Washington Ballet doing principal and solo roles before she came here, and am glad she is getting more opportunities now.

Alexandra MacDonald was Myrtha - I thought she did quite well, maybe a bobble or two, but overall a very nice representation. We did not have the problem with timing or dancers not being able to hear the music in yesterday's performance. Jordana Daumec and Chelsy Meiss were the Lead Wilis. Daumec I think overdid the "face" a bit - and it came off just angry rather than ghost or wili-like. Not sure that was the intent.

All in all, a wonderful afternoon and great way to end the season.

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oh - forgot to mention that I really didn't care for Giselle's 2nd act costume. It must be new, and the Willi's older - it was so different from theirs (yes whiter, but different in style and embellishment also), and I didn't think the bodice fit as well as it should have. An unfortunate distraction for me.

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Thank you for your report, mom2. I am glad to read that MacDonald is settling into her role. I'm not surprised since Lobsanova's second performance was also technically stronger than her first.

Wilfreds should consider that their performances don't exist in isolation. If their mime is half-hearted, it will appear even less convincing once a fully committed Giselle emerges from her cottage a minute later.

And I agree that Huang looked very strong, especially when anchoring the wili "chugs." I also ought to have mentioned Meghan Pugh as the village flirt. She was always very vivid on stage.

I do think something has to be done about the communication between the conductor and the wili corps when the music is inaudible because of applause. At two performances I saw the first group was completely unsynchornized as they jetéd to the wings. In one case they were synchronized with each other, but not with the music. On other occasions they managed the sequence just fine, so it's a crapshoot.

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It is so nice reading everyone thoughts here.

I saw the show on Saturday evening and agree with much of what has been said.

Overall I am really happy I went because I didn't have a very good impressions of the company after L.P.P. and that bomb of a "gala". I thought that on a whole this showed them off much better. It was quality.

I think this particular version is beautiful and had to remind myself of how old it is! I actually really enjoyed the sets and costumes. I simply don't know how I feel about turning the peasant pas de deux into a quartet though. I suppose for the dancers it is nice because more people get an opportunity for the challenge. Some of the lighting cues seemed a bit off in the second act. Im not sure if this was a mistake in the cues or if it was on purpose. It was if cues were always a bit late and they also felt very sudden and lacking in smooth transition.

Also, I was quite surprised to see the adjustments they (have to?) make here. For example, the Giselles I gather don't all do hops on pointe in the first act and I didn't see the famous Giselle lift where she and Abrecht create a T shape with her hovering horizontally above. Maybe they did do it but just a different partnering grip than what I'm used to expecting. Also, I noticed that they downsized the Willis quite a lot. As referenced by others above I am surprised they don't have the dancers to have a full corps. Maybe there are injuries? It's obviously not lack of rehearsal time because...I mean what have they been doing lol.

As for the leads I was very impressed by Lobsanova. I see that this is her first time in the role and I hope to be able to see how she will grow in the role. I think what stands out to me most is she has an ability to appear very young and very mature at the same time. She communicated the naïveté and youth needed in the first act but somehow completely transformed in the second with a maturity and presence that usually isn't seen in such a young ballerina... or...ever haha. Yes, it wasn't technically perfect. But (and I know I speak for only myself here) I really don't care. I want to be moved. I want to laugh and cry and be taken away when I'm at the theatre and this can only be done with performers of high artistic quality and presence. She's got it.

Ebe was a very good Albrecht. Technically I was taken with his clarity. Every step is crystal clear in execution and he doesn't have the annoying affectations some dancers have. He is precise and of quality and I enjoyed it. Also as a couple they look great together with their long limbs.

MacDonald as the Queen of the Willis was good. It's funny because i couldn't find anything to fault technically. Also my goodness are her feet beautiful. It just didn't do much for me. Maybe it's because of the newness of the role for her. I heard it was the same with the second cast however not so with Ogden in the first. I heard she knocked it out of the ballpark! So perhaps it suggest it takes a couple times of doing a role before it sinks in nicely.

Overall it was such a pleasure to be taken away for those hours. Even the quibbles I say above are small in comparison to how much good there was. I think I was just so happy after seeing what I feel is such low quality work (that gala - shudder) to see more of what this company is capable of. And that's not to say that to be taken away you need to have a story ballet - there is so much amazing work out there that is contemporary and more abstract from Kylian to Balanchine to Forsythe to Batcheva. What it comes down to is quality. If you make sure that what you put on stage is high quality you will be viewed as such. Don't put terrible work on stage and then wonder why you're not more respected. It isn't brain surgery. The Giselle I watched Saturday was beautiful, it was thoughtful, it was moving. It has my absolute respect. More of that please!!

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Despite being all wrong for the role in theory, Maddox had ardor, sincerity, complete dramatic investment, romantic longing and even some épaulement. At last Piotr Stanczyk's intense and emotional Hilarion had a convincing rival, and when they butted heads the possibility that blood might be drawn seemed plenty real.

I'm so glad you got to see this! We've had a couple of really intense Hillarions at Pacific Northwest Ballet, that make the dynamic between Hillarion and Albrecht so much richer than "he's got a red beard," and it's made a beautiful production even more rich.

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