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Los Angeles Ballet Dances 'Giselle'

May 15, 2011

For all the opening-night jitters and imperfections, Los Angeles Ballet gave a credible, even moving, performance of “Giselle” on Saturday at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. The essential Giselle experience remained intact: Love survives the grave, bestows forgiveness on an unworthy bad boy and transforms him into a decent human being. Hmm. Sounds like the plot of a movie or two, or a dozen.

Giselle is a village girl courted by a prince disguised as a peasant. She falls in love with him, but when she finds out his identity -- and that he’s engaged to someone else -- she loses her mind and dies. End of ballet? Not by a long shot. In Act 2, she appears as a spirit newly enrolled in the ranks of the Wilis, night creatures that wreak vengeance on perjured suitors. Giselle resists her new duties and saves her prince.

Allyssa Bross danced the title role with appealing sweetness and vulnerability. She made her mad scene nuanced and sparked with creepiness, and if she had some unsteadiness in her ghostly extended balances, she more than compensated elsewhere with poise.

Giselle’s character is straightforward, but that of Prince Albrecht is ambiguous. Is he merely dallying, really in love, torn between court and country? Unfortunately, Christopher Revels gave no clear take on the prince’s motives, although his repentance and sense of loss at the end looked genuine. Revels danced with princely bearing, partnered with consideration, and executed his second act marathon challenges with strength, though he looked more on the edge of real rather than dramatic exhaustion.

Chehon Wespi-Tschopp was an intense Hilarion, a villager also in love with Giselle. His prestissimo spins to his death at the hands of the Wilis were terrific.

Kate Highstrete made Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, an other-worldly creature of pitiless steel.

The Peasant Pas de Deux was danced by Allynne Noelle and Zheng Hua Li (who alternates in the role of Prince Albrecht). Noelle was sunny and graceful. Li had crisp, flashing legwork, but tended to land badly. The corps looked well-schooled, although earthbound. The company danced to pre-recorded music.

The production was from the Louisville Ballet. Ben Pilat provided the dramatic lighting. L.A. Ballet company co-director Thordal Christensen tweaked the traditional Coralli-Perrot-Petipa choreography, cutting some virtuosic demands, adding some mime, and inventing a poor couple who provide their cottage as the prince’s local digs. Christensen’s wife and company co-director, Colleen Neary, enacted Giselle’s mother, Berthe, with fuss and worry.

With this touchstone Romantic ballet, LAB closes its fifth season with a stronger than ever claim for community support. Performances continue Saturday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and the following weekend at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

Los Angeles Times

by Chris Pasles

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