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Subject: "Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle" Archived thread - Read only
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06-11-00, 03:16 PM (GMT)
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"Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle"
   Not sure if this should be a new thread or not; maybe Bruce will move it if it should be part of an existing thread.

The production has generally had favourable reviews in the press. Most seemed to say that the second act was better than the first. Well I was about to see for myself. With a cast of dancers completely unknown to me, I felt this would either be very good or very bad.

The curtain rises on the classic Giselle set. There are no gimmicks like flowing waterfalls or singing birds. The look is correct for true classical ballet. Enter Albrecht (Dragos Mihalces); he has wonderfully long legs, and to quote the song "knows how to use them". It's not often that a simple run-on has me going "ooooh", unless it is the corps. (As an aside, my ballet teacher says walking and running are the two most difficult things in ballet - comments please!) Wilfred (Jae Woog Pu) has the usual bad fake beard; ballet and bad beards go hand in hand in my opinion. The stage was set for a good performance.

Giselle (Seh Yun Kim) enters in blue. Oh well, we wasn't going to see Julia Moon dance. Immediately I could tell Miss Seh was going to dance the role well. She has a look of fraility but at the same time moves with consummate skill. I liked her a lot. Enter Hilarion (Jung-Hoon Kim); good the beard is extra bad. Pity I could not warm to him, as I found his acting very mannered. I could detect nothing of the person.

The peasant dance was very well executed by Ilmira Bagaoutdinova and Jae-Young Ohm. I would like to see a lot more of her. At the end of the second solo, she coped a bad landing and very nearly lost it. Hey it happens; they are only human after all.
She recovered with great poise and dignity. I doubt many of the audience spotted it. I felt Miss B. the better of the two dancers; my friend preferred Mr O. for the same reason. One review that I read said the corps did not look very together in scenes like the peasant dance. I detected none of this; they acknowledged the two soloists at the appropriate moments. Nice costumes too; nothing added and nothing removed from the norm.

Bathilde (Irina Guseve) is a very beautiful looking lady (Trog is in love!) The costume is very regal and the king had an extra bad beard. Absolutely perfect. The decent into madness, while nothing special it was handled without going OTT. I have seen several productions were this scene has been overplayed; this was not one off them thankfully. Perhaps some of the mime could have been more expressive, but generally I thought it was well done.

Act two, Mythra (Ioana Vasileseu) looks suitable haughty. On glide the corps, again very together. I must emphasise "glide"; I was struck my the absence of the usual tap-tap-tap. All 24 standing in perfect unison, nothing out of place. A line of 12 only just fits depth wise and they handled the entrances and exits by the chief Wilis perfectly; no knocking of arms. Again there were no gimmicks here, no Wilis on wires, just a few strobe lights.

Enter Giselle; ahaha a gimmick. The tombstone turns through a half circle to reveal her standing behind. Actually you could see her tutu before so the effect was partially ruined (or maybe this was a deliberate ploy in this gimmick free production). Hilarion proved to be quite capable of his dance of death; very energetic and with plenty of height. Mr Jae is not that tall, so this is quite a feat. Naturally Albrecht with the legs that go on forever had excellent elevation and great control during the beats. (I do wish I could beat at even 10% of his ability.)

And so dawn breaks, Giselle slips off, the Wilis depart and the curtain falls on a good performance. Julia Moon and Oleg Vinogradov appeared during the curtain calls.

I felt the orchestra were a bit uneven, sometimes too loud, sometimes too soft and sometimes the rhythm was uneven. Still this was real live music, and it always makes the performance much better than if a taped score is used.

The set was right, the costumes were right and the beards very bad. The dancing was solid if not spectacular. Would I recommend it ? Yep! While not an outstanding production, it is much better than some Giselle's I have seen. Well worth the trip from the Midlands to see them. If they tour again I will see them if possible.

Now for a secret. As I left the theatre, I saw some of the dancers walking back from buying their tea. Want to know what dancers eat to get that perfect body ? Burger King!

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle Bruce Madmin 07-11-00 1
     RE: Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle Elisabeth 08-11-00 3
         RE: Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle Ann Williams 08-11-00 4
         RE: Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle Bruce Madmin 08-11-00 5
  RE: Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle Bruce Madmin 07-11-00 2

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Bruce Madmin

07-11-00, 09:44 AM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle"
In response to message #0
   another view on Universal...

Who: Universal Ballet
What: Giselle

Where: London, Sadler's Wells
When: 31 October 2000

An artistic clash of some proportions as Kirov grandiosity runs into the buffers of Far Eastern theatre and all the things that have made their TV so magnificently weird, strange and, it has to be said, funny to us. A real curiosity of a night.

A company bankrolled by Sun Myung Moon - as in the Head of the Moonies - although the programme says precious little about this support for a company first formed in the mid 1980's.

Of course many companies, certainly in the UK, have Far Eastern dancers in them (as do our dance schools) and usually they are incredibly gifted technically and musically. So what might a company formed for the most part of Far Eastern dancers look like - regimented perfection I possibly thought. As it happened it proved a rather different evening.

Standard Giselle fare and not particularly mucked about with - all set in dingy Rhineland etc. Girl (Giselle) falls for Prince (Albrecht) masquerading as an ordinary Joe and when the deception is revealed she goes mad with grief and dies. The second act is all about his repentance and her spirit saving him from being killed by her fellow ghosts - Wilis - the ghosts of jilted brides.

It's my favourite 19th century ballet. Above all Giselle is a story of true love, its silly betrayal and its trueness holding through. Its not exactly a happy ending but I find it quite the sweetest of ballets with powerful drama and lovely white corps work.

Colours and layout similar to nearly every other production you have ever seen - all very beige and foresty! Its notable for Giselle house truly being small and nothing special (good) and in the second act actually having some of the trees more centre stage for dancers to walk through and around. I found this very effective though it may have caused problems earlier in the performance by taking up too much room when hidden - either way the company looked a bit cramped at times.

Oleg Vinogradov, ex Kirov, is the Universal Ballet Artistic Director and this is his production though naturally based on the Corrali/Petipa 'original'. Vinogradov does not seem to have toned much of it down for a company of lesser stature. This is a shame...

The programmes introductory words talk of dancers from 12 nations, but the reality is that most of the dancers appear to be Korean, or nationalities close to, and this gives a very different feel to their work. Its different because one is simply not used to seeing so many oriental faces doing something so western, but different also in that they naturally bring their own national theatrical baggage. The training might be St P's but the unsubtle make-up and big acting looks like incredibly cheap TV to our eyes. While Giselle (Julia Moon? - the casting was not clear) strove for some naturalness (if it came over as rather stiff), in the main everybody was a gross caricature or just didn't seem to know how to act as we would know it - made the worse for the boys by the sporting of quite the most appalling beards and tons of make up. This is a cultural thing, but I can only judge it with my eyes and it just destroys the pathos of the piece for the most part. On top of this the company are attempting to punch rather above their weight - technically they struggle, particularly at soloist level and don't really reach the standard of some of the minor Russian companies that tour extensively the smaller theatres of Britain.

But even so there were some highlights - Myrtha (A Russian girl?) on the opening night was just marvellously natural and introduced herself with the most brilliant of bourrees possibly better than those Tracey Brown (RB a bit back) used to do.

Does it work?
At the moment not for me - an interesting curiosity more than anything. But its worth remembering that the very first Japanese/Far Eastern cars that came over to the UK in the 1970's were thought naff, horribly unsophisticated etc and yet now they are world class. The Far Eastern attention to detail and technique might well win through in the longer term.

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08-11-00, 04:04 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail Elisabeth Click to send private message to Elisabeth Click to add this user to your buddy list  
3. "RE: Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle"
In response to message #1
   Bruce wrote:

> So what might
>a company formed for the
>most part of Far Eastern
>dancers look like . . .

Oh dear. I couldn't believe my eyes when I read a similar racially-tinged comment from Ismene Brown in the opening paragraphs of one of her reviews of this troupe. So only dancers of the Caucasian race are entitled to dance the classics? I am relieved that neither Dance Theater of Harlem nor Ballet Nacional de Cuba are touring their respective versions of "Giselle" to the UK anytime soon. On a similar note, I don't blame Carlos Acosta for resigning his permanent spot at the RB.

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Ann Williams

08-11-00, 06:35 PM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle"
In response to message #3
I agree with most of Trog's comments (we were at the same performance) but would just like to add that I thought the corps were outstanding and could certainly stand comparison with the Kirov corps. I would certainly go to see them again.

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Bruce Madmin

08-11-00, 07:52 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle"
In response to message #3
   >So only
>dancers of the Caucasian race
>are entitled to dance the

No not at all. I have never said or implied that.

Just because this company were not able to rise to the challenge (for me) does not mean its wrong. I also have a tape of a Japanese Sleeping B (I think it was Sleeping B) with a japanese corps who thrilled me to bits - I suggest you might read the piece:


>I am relieved that
>neither Dance Theater of Harlem
>nor Ballet Nacional de Cuba
>are touring their respective versions
>of "Giselle" to the UK
>anytime soon.

A shame because I would love to see them.

>On a similar
>note, I don't blame Carlos
>Acosta for resigning his
>permanent spot at the RB.

I think Carlos is fabulous and I'm sure if you look at the back cataloue of reviews (use Advanced Search and look for Acosta as the dancer and Marriott as the reviewer), you wil generlly see that I think him rather great in most things. I also interviewed Carlos and found behind the dancer the very nicest of men.

And then of course there is Miyako Yoishida who I love to bits. And BRB's Nao Sakuma. All I'm sure mentioned more than positvely in my reviews.

It's also worth pointing out that a French reader had a go at me for daring to make some points about the look of Paris Opera Ballet! And I'm sure I made poinst about the collective look of NYCB. Just as I will make some points about Paul Taylors dancers. Sometimes the comments are postive, sometimes negative - but I don't believe ever racist...

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Bruce Madmin

07-11-00, 09:46 AM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Review: Universal Ballet - Giselle"
In response to message #0
   A more charitable view perhaps...


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