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Contrasting styles for Giselle


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I only have the opportunity to take my daughter to one performance of Giselle this season, and I was wondering if people could share their opinions on the contrasting styles, strengths and weaknesses of the dancers in the lead female role (Maslova, DiPiazza, Iseda, Pineiro, Torriente & Hughes). Of course it is understood that these are your personal takes - that is what I am hoping for, particularly with some feel for the differences. Thank you for sharing.

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Hello, I can share my observations- but please understand I am not a dancer and do not have the language so many here do to explain what I see.  I get to see the company perform often, I never tire of watching the different ways the dancers interpret and perform the same roles.  Each of these talented ladies has such a distinct personality on stage, I can understand your dilemma!  I'm a little embarrassed to put myself out there, but here goes.. I'll only share the strengths though....

If you want to see a dramatic and delicate Giselle, who seems to float through the air - see Maslova.  Her épaulement is absolutely gorgeous, she is extremely flexible, she lives the music, and when she's partnered in lifts- she and her partner are like one (she's so tiny and fearless!)

DiPiazza- I've loved watching her in Balanchine and princess roles because she excels in the Balanchine style and she looks like a princess. Her Juliet was a lovely surprise because I saw a dramatic, looser (in a good way), and still clean expression in her dancing.  I'm excited to see her romantic Giselle! 

Iseda, a soloist, is a powerhouse petite dancer whom I have loved in every role. She shows a comfort and wisdom from experience in her dancing.  she is good at everything and, in particular, she seems to come in at the front of the music and hold poses for a long and good time. Does that make sense? It adds excitement when watching.

Pineiro is a clean and crisp dancer- I've thought her nearly perfect in both classic and neoclassical performances. Like DiPiazza, she's a princess in her comportment. She can turn like no other. I would bet her tragic Giselle would be a force to watch.

Torriente is an old-school dancer, in a good way. She reminds me of dancers I've seen from a pre-Balanchine era. Her technique is strong, her feet are pretty, she's flexible, she's big when she needs to be. She is tall (for PAB), and Sterling is a really good partner to her.  I think this might be the role that people will say she "owns." 

Hughes, a soloist, is a technical and intellectual dancer- all in a good way.  She is an artist- she  shares her heart and mind on stage.  She has strengths in her petite allegro (perfect for Giselle). She is lovely.


Good luck, I really hope you have a beautiful night (or matinee) at the ballet!




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I was going to post my own opinions, but I agree with pretty much everything wallis said. Oksana would probably be one of the better ones to pick, especially if you really like classical ballet style. I just saw her in R+J (where she was amazing and truly embodied the role), so I wanted to branch out and see another dancer as the main role. Mayara is my second choice, and Lillian would probably be my third, but I don't know enough about the remaining three to give them a fair shot. To be fair, I've really enjoyed every dancer I've seen in a principal role!

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Piñeiro is someone who should be interesting to see in the role. She's a Cuban ballerina, and as such I'm sure she too grew within her schooling revering the role and watching videos of the fantastic generation of Cuban ballerinas who excelled on it, including of course Alonso.

Perhaps this is a debut for her here, and I don't think she danced the role back in Cuba,  so I'm sure she will give her best . 

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Sine the geniuses at ABT didn't program Giselle this spring, and I've been curious about PA Ballet under Corella - this seems like the perfect time to make the trip. I wanted to see DiPiazza and Baca but they're only dancing the first Friday performance and that date just doesn't work for me.  I was hoping to see one of the Cuban ballerinas as Giselle but based on my availability the 3/16 evening performance  worked best. The lead pair is Maslova and Soca and since they are first cast I figured they must be pretty good. Happy to hear that Wallis likes her, hopefully I will too!  Dayesi Torriente is dancing Myrtha, so I'll get to see one of the Cubans, though not as Giselle. 

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matinee Saturday March 9.  Incredible.  The first act was beautiful and I applaud the company for doing a tremendous job accommodating the conductor. He was off tempo.  Slightly too slow most of the time and too fast when the tempo should speed up.  It’s subtle if you aren’t familiar with the music or the strength and capability of the dancers.  It was noticeable enough to me in that dancers can only hang in the air so long on a jump.  It wasn’t enough of a bother to stop enjoying everything I saw though I imagine the dancers might feel otherwise.  Act 2- divine.  The corps, as usual, was perfect.  Yuka as Giselle was more perfect than I expected her to be.  

There are a few things I look for as standards in a good company: men who point their feet and a Corps that can be in unity.  Of course, technique and strength and grace I expect!  The men - gorgeous jumps and pointed feet in Act 1.  The corps- perfect in unity.  Seldom did someone leg go above the rest. No one tries to outshine the others.  That’s a testament to the artistic staff and their direction.  It’s even more a testament to a team of dancers who respect each other and understand the value of unity.  Some other companys build unity by putting together a Corps of bodies that are the same.  Not PAB, and the viewing is richer because of it!

Standing  ovation today.

Edited by wallis
Spoke too soon!
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2 hours ago, wallis said:

matinee Saturday March 9.  Incredible.  . . . Yuka as Giselle was more perfect than I expected her to be.  

I just checked the casting list. You saw Yuka Iseda in her only performance of Giselle this season! I'm so jealous. I saw her only Swan Lake with them last year and was just blown away. She was just promoted from corps to soloist for this season. Someone to watch, for sure!

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I am lucky enough that I was able to catch 4/5 of this past weekends performances. Student Tickets are a godsend.  

Thursday Night 

Oksana Maslova and Arian Molina Soca were the lead couple tonight and this performances was highly publicized both around the city and on PA's Instagram. On paper, Oksana has everything to be the ideal Giselle. On stage, while there were some stunning moments, her charming personality shone in the first act and she showed her gorgeous flexibility and turnout in the 2nd act. In between, there were moments where her arms looked a bit uncoordinated.  She had a couple of stumbles in her variation on the double attitude pirouettes and unfortunately barely traveled at all on her hops on pointe. This was her debut and I hope next weeks performance with prove to be more stable as she has so much potential in this role.  

Molina Soca is charming and flirtatious in the first act creating lots of cute moments between himself and Oksana but gets a little bit ahead of himself ad looses some of his characterization in rushed moments. The connection seemed a bit looser in the the second act but his variation was crisp.

Nayara Lopes with Albert Gorden in the Peasant PPD was a highlight of the entire weekend, truly one of the best I have seen. Lopes just seems to float through the entire piece. She was truly 'on' that night with gorgeous sustained balances in both her attitudes in her variation and in the passes before and after her double step overs in the coda. Perhaps the most impressive were her giant sissones to arabesque in the coda, although she is not very tall she just ate up the stage with precise footwork and her sunny disposition. Gorden had crisp feet and quick pirouettes throughout. 

The soloists Nayara Lopes and Alexandra Hughes were the Willis soloists. Hughes was fine with a couple stumbles on her diagonal of turns. Lopes retuned with a completely different character than she showed in the first act. Her arms flowed seamlessly as she was absolutely stunning in several sustained balances in penche. Keep your eyes on her. 

Dayesi Torriente was a frosty Myrtha with enormous jumps and stable balances. Her face and emotions were truly scary, shivers ran up my arms. I got such old school vibes from her, and her interpretation reminded me of how Maria Alexandra danced this role. Everything she did from the huge menage of grand jetes to the little pas de chevals before her pique arabesques radiated her power. 

The corps seemed extra focused in this performance, it was the opening night after all and few mistakes were made. They received generous applause throughout this weekend. 

Saturday Maintee 

This was the debut that I was most excited for: Yuka Iseda. She is quite short but still posses an incredibly stable and flexible arabesque line. Her penche in both her variation and all of the 2nd act were so stable. She has complete control over this position, she has the flexibility and strength to hold the 180 position while barely dropping her back; her lines are stunning. She was charming and light throughout the first act. I think I preferred her mad scene the most, this was a woman going insane. She had such intense emotions not just in her face but in her hands, her torso, her whole body was committed to the character. However, her small stature does limit her jumping ability some of the grande allegro looked a bit labored after the adagio. Overall, an exceptional debut but unfortunately the cast around her was not quite as good.

The soloist, Alexey Babyev, certainly has a lot of potential. He does not even have to do anything and he instantly looks like a prince. He has a handsome face, dark hair, long straight legs and nice feet and a natural elegance that will carry him far. However he seemed to not push for much of a connection with Iseda and sort of faded in the background. 

There were more issues in the Peasant PPD. Kathryn Manger had some mishaps and it looked like she may have tweaked her ankle. Her partner Peter Weil also did not have a good showing with poorly executed tours. 

The Myrtha, soloist Alexandra Hughes, did not deliver a confident performance. Sadly, her entrance was filled with wobbles and her characterization really suffered. So Jung Shin helped to redeem the act, she showed a somber performance with smooth port de bras as Moyna. 

I spotted the Rock School Directors, Bo and Stephanie Spassoff in the audience for this performance, she was clapping with enthusiasm at curtain calls for the lead couple. 

Saturday Evening

Mayara Pineiro's performance can best be described as stable. There were no wobbles, all the turns were finished smoothly. She clearly trusts her technique to get her through this difficult ballet. However, her emotions were more reserved and even sitting as close as I was, it was very clear that I was watching Mayara, not Giselle. The mad scene especially needs work and didn't see famous Cuban Giselle influences in her dancing. 

Ze Cheng Liang was fully engaged in this performance and his technique is perhaps the cleanest in the company.Every tour is stuck in fifth and every pirouette is lifted to the maximum. I liked to describe his acting as clear, his gestures are precise and held which makes it easy for the audience to see what he is doing. This was noticeable in the scene where Albrecht reaches for his sword that he does not have when he wants to fight Hillarion. This key moment was rushed by all the other Albrechts. He was the one who best conveyed Albrecht's inner conflicts. You could feel him reaching to connect with Pineiro but he received little response.  He has had principal roles in every production the previous seasons and with Ian Hussey retiring at the end of the season there is an opening in the principal rank...

Nayara Lopes had her debut as Myrtha. While she was technically solid, this is not the most natural role for her. She has a sunnier personality and a shorter build that does not lend itself easily to Myrtha's character. 

Sunday Matinee

I was curious to see Dayesi tackle a cuter, softer character. She tends to be cast in more dramatic and powerful roles; last season she did a great O/O with her fiancee Molina Soca and also shined as the Rubies Tall Girl. However, she was not cast at all in this spring's R&J and I don't think she danced Aurora last season (She did dance Lilac Fairy).  

All that being said, I was blown away with her interpretation, especially in the 2nd act. It is rare that a dancer can be both a great Giselle and Myrtha. Torreinte is exceptional and she poured her soul out, especially in the 2nd act. The way she threw herself in between Albretch and Myrtha  selflessly brought tears to my eyes. The highlight was her entrechat quatre sequence, she just seemed to be floating the whole time. Gorgeous suspension and an effortless movement quality, this was the Cuban Giselle.  

I have not always been the biggest fan of Sterling Baca as he tends to have too much sloppy footwork for my liking but he is a very dramatic Albretch. His variation was particularly versatile, showing tours and pirouettes to both sides.  In addition, he is the only one to perform the entrechat six in the 2nd act and did so despite a insanely quick tempo. He also has the additional challenge of dancing with two different partners just mere days apart. 

These two had by far the strongest connection and chemistry on stage and the crowd really voiced their support. 

Myrtha was the very young Sydney Dolan and I was pleasantly surprised by her take of this role. While she doesn't yet have the maturity to give off such an evil chill, she soared through this roles technical challenges. Her penches was effortlessly stable and jumps just got bigger throughout the night. 

Yuka Iseda again delivered in Peasant PPD paired with Ashton Roxander, with smooth attitudes and a smile. 

Some General Thoughts

The conductor must have been a nightmare for the dancers. He seemed to speed up and slow down the tempo whenever he wished; it was so inconsistent.  Mostly the dancers coped well but there were some moments where the tempo simply became undanceable and the dancers had to modify choreography. I am not sure of this conductor's name but he is not the ballet's typical conductor and did not conduct anything else this season. Normally, it is a curly-haired woman. 

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47 minutes ago, TempsdeCuisse said:

The soloists Nayara Lopes and Alexandra Hughes were the Willis soloists. Hughes was fine with a couple stumbles on her diagonal of turns.


The Myrtha, soloist Alexandra Hughes, did not deliver a confident performance. Sadly, her entrance was filled with wobbles and her characterization really suffered.

Distressing to read these reports of Hughes, as I'll be seeing her Giselle on Saturday afternoon. (I chose based on convenience rather than cast, as I don't know the company at all, other than Corella and Baca from their ABT days.)  I hope she can pull things together by then.

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1 hour ago, Kaysta said:

I love Alexandra Hughes, she is one of my favorite dancers at PAB.  Though I will admit that I favor her in the Balanchine rep (what little is left at PAB), and have no clue what kind of Giselle she would be.

Thanks, Kaysta, that's good to hear. I'll keep my hopes up and will report back! In any case, really looking forward to Giselle, since I missed ABT's last year and they're not doing it this coming spring.

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Unexpectedly, I was able to squeeze in a couple of days in Philadelphia en route to a meeting. On the second weekend, I saw Friday with Torriente and Baca, the Saturday matinee Hughes and Hussey, and the Saturday evening with Maslova and Soca.

Orchestra: as others have noted, really awful, amateurish even. I thought by the second weekend, it would have improved. Nope! The tempo seemed much too fast in some places, especially in sections for the peasants in Act I. A distinctive flute solo for Giselle in I was a disaster at the matinee. The flute just vanished and then seemed to be struggling to find a place to jump in. The trumpet blew some very exposed wrong notes. 

Torriente-Baca: I've never been a Baca fan, so I was very pleasantly surprised at the Friday night performance (3/15). His acting was effective throughout. The partnering was superb. On Facebook, the company has been running several rehearsal video clips, including Corella demonstrating for the men the tabletop lift in Act II. Torriente-Baca seemed so secure throughout, that I kept thinking: this is what great coaching can do. Baca did the  30+ entrechats in Act II to well-deserved applause. Leaps and jumps were high and well-landed. She was very good throughout -- not a knock-out, no surprises at extending anything beyond expectations. But a performance worth seeing. Yuka Iseda did Peasant -- she does stand out. Presence, charisma. One to watch.

Hughes-Hussey: Huge disappointment. I understand he's retiring, which seems overdue. He seemed exhausted (and not in a good way), especially in Act II. Low jumps, sloppy form. The worst embarrassment: he does the Baryshnikov flying brises on the diagonal instead of the entrechats in II. He only did about four of them both times. Very low. Awful positions. Not a hint of applause for any of them. I don't think tall men do well in that move anyway, but I am guessing he knew the entrechats would be even worse. She was acceptable, but nothing special. The partnering made me nervous. The tabletops seemed shaky and he let her down quickly. 

Maslova-Soca: They opened the run last week and deserve being considered the leads. Both were apparently hired by Corella, judging from recent dates joining this company. Very confident, polished, impressive. Gorgeous partnering. I was surprised Soca did the brises. They just don't look good with tall men, but at least he had a polished position. Hussey was Hilarion (a downside at a smaller company -- you might do Albrecht at the matinee and return a few hours later as Hilarion).

Trivia: As noted, the production is sponsored by the West Laurel Hill Cemetery, which gets a laugh. The vice chair of the Trustees appeared before the curtain at all of these performances to push their fund-raising this month. He explained that a woman named Mary Ann Lee was born in Philadelphia in 1823 and was the first American to perform Giselle (in Boston in the late 1840s). She's buried at West Laurel Hill. 

Production: This is not the ABT sets and costumes, but they were very similar. Corella reportedly added some choreography, especially for the peasants in Act I in some nice formations. The corps was great -- especially their unison in formations and chugs in II. I was puzzled by some minor (okay, trivial) details. In some productions, the Wilis already have a crown of flowers (or some such), showing that they have been "inducted" into the cult. Giselle doesn't and escapes the cult without one.  Nobody in this production had a crown of any kind, which seemed odd. 

Edited by California
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I really enjoyed the performance this afternoon, overall. I was worried going in that I've been so spoiled by seeing primarily the NYC companies and those visiting there that a lower-tier company would be too disappointing, and it certainly wasn't world-class, but it was a fine performance overall.

Alexandra Hughes has little of the innate innocence or fragility that one would like to see in a very good Giselle, and yet she had some other strong qualities. Her dancing is large and energetic — she has lovely long legs and articulates them well. She and Ian Hussey were nicely matched in the opening sequence. Her pas seul had not much grace (the hops especially were rather labored) but much elan. Overall, her Act I was acceptable but not fully satisfying.

The company as a whole could really use some good acting coaches. Federico D'Ortenzi as Hilarion was particularly trite and overdrawn. As he's the first onstage, this was not reassuring. Hughes and Hussey were better in this department, and definitely more convincing overall, but Hussey in particular was a bit over-indulgent at times (channeling David Hallberg in Act II, for instance).

The peasant PDD was a mixed bag, and while Ana Calderon and Etienne Diaz looked at first well-matched, she was overall more impressive, while he was quite disappointing. She's something of a firecracker, but not at all ideally proportioned; his dancing was significantly less refined, both solo and in partnering.

Act II was significantly more transporting. Alexandra Heier was a very good Myrtha. From the fast bourrees across stage and the utterly solid, smooth, swift 360 turns in arabesque, I knew from the start she had it down. (One rather off note was that her eyes were very darkly shadowed all around, in an oddly goth look. Also, while her acting was better than that of many others, I found her repeated turn of the head in rebuke, in response to every plea for mercy, to be a bit rote.)

Misa Kasamatsu was a good Zulma, but she was completely overshadowed by So Jung Shin's Moyna. Shin is a gorgeous, soulful dancer, with exceptional stage presence even in her many moments of absolute stillness. I would love to see more of her.

Hughes had a stronger Act II overall. Her opening turns were fast and solid, earning substantial applause — as did the first of the two overhead horizontal lifts, which also got some gasps. (The second was good as well, though she had to put her arm down on Hussey's shoulder to steady herself just before he lowered her.) Hussey is a good partner, though his solo dancing was kind of all over the place. Some moments (the first jeté en tournant, for example) were nice and clean, while others (the brisés, which looked rather unusual — with not much of a pronounced beat and with an odd position of the body) were underwhelming.

The corps looked quite good throughout both acts, and especially in the second.

I'm definitely grading everything on a curve, given my expectations going in. But on the whole I found it a satisfying performance.



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