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Moscow Ballet La Classique

'Giselle'

April 2002
Croydon, Fairfield Hall

by Alison Penfold


La Classique 'Giselle' reviews

'Giselle' reviews

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It's quite difficult to review a ballet fairly when the venue is a rather inadequate, converted concert-hall stage with no wings to speak of, but I shall do my best. The curtain rose (or rather, didn't) on a simple backdrop showing what I assume was Albrecht's castle; no cottages for Giselle's mother and Albrecht, just a basket of flowers to mark where Giselle lived. I found it rather disconcerting to have the dancers simply behaving as though the wings were their dwellings, and Hilarion pulling Albrecht's sword from out of the wings didn't quite have the same effect as breaking into Albrecht's cottage does, although presumably all this was due to the limitations of the concert hall. Not that this is a production which goes in much for dramatic realism anyway: much of the acting was more of the silent-movie type - Hilarion in particular was doing a lot of gesticulation, but I couldn't for the life of me work out what he was going on about! Berthe's mime relating the legend of the Wilis was omitted - she merely listened to Giselle's heart to indicate that Giselle had a health problem - but other, smaller and not always so essential, pieces of mime did survive. The production is largely similar to the ones danced by British companies, with some modifications introduced by Mikhail Lavrovsky, including a dance for 9 dancers before the peasant pas de deux proper (bet you didn't know that tambourines were a feature of Rhineland dances!). I thought the latter, danced by a pair of dancers rather mismatched in height, threatened to unbalance the first act somewhat, as it shifted the focus away from Giselle and Albrecht too much, in a way that a pas de six doesn't.

As seems to be the case with most of these small Russian touring companies, the company appeared to be very female-heavy, and also the quality of the women seemed rather better than that of the men (where do all the good Russian men go? I thought they produced so many of them!), and this was also reflected in the principals. Giselle (sorry, no programme, so I can't give names) was a very good, attractive and expressive dancer, suitably light and floating during the second act, and her first-act mad scene was very affecting. Albrecht, on the other hand, during the first act, looked heavy and rather untidy in his dancing. Such was his improvement in the second act, however, that I had to double-check under the changed lighting that it was in fact the same man - in a more flattering costume, he appeared much lighter and his dancing was significantly better.

Danced in front of the same backdrop, this act was a completely different experience, and showed the company to much better effect. The corps (the company can field at least 18 Wilis) proved to be well-trained, having a good feel for the Romantic style, and moving very well in unison, and a friend sitting rather nearer to the stage than I was reported that they came over as quite evil and ghoulish, much more so than the Royal Ballet's. My only quibble was that for some reason the amount of bourréeing for the Wilis had been cut drastically - a great shame, because Myrthe seemed to have an exceptionally fine bourrée, with very light and tiny steps, yet both she and the corps frequently ran across the stage instead of bourréeing.

Comparisons with the productions of the main British companies would be unfair, as budgets and venues are obviously so different, but although danced to taped music and with minimal scenery this small-scale production is generally a good one, and at least it brings ballet to smaller venues which cannot accommodate the large companies

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