Jump to content
This Site Uses Cookies. If You Want to Disable Cookies, Please See Your Browser Documentation. ×

Colorado Ballet: Giselle

Recommended Posts

Colorado Ballet opened its 2021-22 season this weekend with four performances of Giselle, which had originally been planned for fall 2020. Like so much else now, they are experiencing major transitions in their personnel. I have already noted the unexpected (and much lamented) departure of principal Francisco Estevez last spring. I also note the surprise absence from the roster of Simon Cowell, a promising young African-American corps member. I have no idea what their future plans are. With the retirement last year of Chandra Kuykendall, they now have only three principals (Dana Benton, Yosvani Ramos, and Asuka Sasakai, who is on maternity leave).

Giselle thus became a great opportunity for four soloists, three newly hired, to make their mark in principal roles and I am optimistic they will prove worthwhile.

Production: When the company last performed Giselle in 2013, they rented sets and costumes from ABT. For this season, they came from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and were quite impressive. I did find the Wilis’ tutus unsettling, though I’m probably over-thinking this. Their skirts are a dirty gray, darker near the waist. As young women jilted at the altar, they are buried in their white wedding dresses. Do they get dirty climbing in and out of their graves every night? A little too much realism for my taste! At least Giselle was in a pure white, unadorned dress, as they try to recruit her to their ranks.

EDITED TO ADD: I understand that Queen Victoria introduced the tradition of the white wedding dress in 1840, one year before Giselle. I don't know what the customs were in Paris at that time. But even if the white Wilis' tutus are merely evocations of the spirit world and not wedding dresses, the explanation for the dirty gray could be the same, viz., that they are climbing out of their graves every night. https://fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu/1840-queen-victorias-wedding-dress/


I saw all three pairs of principals this first weekend, debuts with this company for all. (As Artistic Director Gil Boggs explained on opening night, they learned the roles on Zoom last spring.)

Dana Benton and Yosvani Ramos are company veterans. Ramos has performed this ballet with other companies and brought the maturity of interpretation and poise he reliably delivers. He is 42 and in excellent physical condition, despite several injuries and surgeries, well-documented on his social media in recent years. They skipped the tabletop lift that is so thrilling in Act II and instead did a vertical lift. But as Ratmansky noted in interviews after his reconstruction in early 2020, the tabletop wasn’t in the original. The vertical lift is familiar from many performances at the Bolshoi and elsewhere.

Sarah Tryon (who has been with the company since 2015) and Jonnathan Ramirez (one of the newcomers) offered a more youthful presence, well-coached in dramatic details. They did a version of the overhead lift that was not quite horizontal with the floor, but impressive anyway.

Jennifer Grace and Mario Labrador (both newcomers to the company) were the most thrilling to my eye. Although both were born in the US, they trained at the Bolshoi Academy and Labrador performed with the Mikhailovsky for several years before returning to the US. I was stunned at the authenticity of his compelling dramatic presence throughout, which never seemed phony or artificially overwrought. Their tabletop was not horizontal and seemed awkward on the exit, the only complaint I had about their partnering. Grace's interpretation was lovely, but not with the same gravitas as her partner.

Admittedly, I probably pay too much attention to some iconic moments, like the hops on pointe in Act I for Giselle. Grace was the only Giselle to do them and she travelled a fair distance. Benton and Tryon used a substitution that Kuykendall used in the past, a repeated releve to pointe on one foot with the other leg in front in attitude. Well, okay, and most probably didn’t notice the difference, but disappointing.

Brises or entrechats? All three men did the brises on the diagonal so familiar from Baryshnikov’s legendary performances. Labrador was best at gobbling up the stage at high speed and seeming to run out of space. All the men in 2013 also did the brises, which I prefer, if done well. Albrecht is under Myrtha’s command at that point. The entrechats that so many men do require him to turn away from her toward the audience, breaking the spell.

Hilarion: Three soloists long with the company took turns with this role (Christopher Moulton, Liam Hogan, and Nicolas Pelletier). None commanded the stage with their presence, despite quite acceptable technique in the demanding choreography. Runs off stage sometimes looked more like jogging through Central Park and stage walks were too often pedestrian strolls.

Myrtha: All three brought a powerful, ominous presence to the role. Grace actually performed this twice over the weekend, despite also doing Giselle on Saturday night, something you see in smaller regional companies. Alexandra Wilson is a corps member who has been with the company since 2019. Melissa Zoebisch is a demi-soloist with the company since 2014.

The two I'll be most eager to see again later in the season are Labrador and Sasaki, when she returns.

The orchestra always does a fine job for this company. None of the performances was sold out, but attendance seemed quite acceptable. The company follows the policies of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (proof of vaccination and inside masking) and people seemed agreeable, although I did see a predictable flurry of complaints on Facebook.  The performing arts could not survive another year of lock-down and I’m quite happy to play by these rules to help them get back to the stage.

They plan four more performances of Giselle next weekend. This company has always been very stingy on advance casting announcements for reasons I've never understood, but perhaps they are loosening up a tad. This weekend they have announced casting for next weekend. Benton-Ramos are scheduled for Saturday evening 10/16, Grace-Labrador for Friday 10/15 and Sunday 10/17, with Tryon-Ramirez Saturday matinee 10/16.

EDITED TO ADD: I wrote this Sunday morning and just got back from the Sunday matinee. Benton was injured this morning and Tryon was the substitute, dancing with Ramos. She was fortunate to have such a seasoned partner and it went very smoothly. They used the vertical lift that he does with Benton. I have no idea if Benton will be able to dance next weekend. Ramos is very active on social media, especially Instagram, so we might learn more there.

This company uses an on-line program option. Do others? It's nice to see before getting to the theater. They do still distribute print programs when you arrive. Here's the link:  https://issuu.com/pubhouse/docs/cb_fall_wrap_21_giselle_prog?promo=3959

Edited by California
updated content
Link to comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...