Once again dance came to the heart of the Black Country, with the visit of Cwmni Ballet Gwent and their production "Giselle Connotation", to the Stourbridge Town Hall. It is indeed a rare event to see any kind of dance performed in that part of the country, and a packed audience were there to see some real live ballet. This production is a departure from the company's usual adaptations of Shakespearean plays.
The program promised the original Adam score, and choreography by Darius James, artistic director, dancer and founder of the company. The program lays out the usual libretto, and so we were in for Giselle but with a cut down cast (they are only eight strong; five girls, three boys) and with modern costumes. How would it work ?
The curtain rises on a set of tie-die back drops (very '60s). A single chair with a cardigan draped over the back is slightly left of centre stage. Giselle, danced by Lisia Moala, is standing near the chair, staring into space. The rest of the company run back and forth, dressed in long leather coats of pastel shades, with very brightly coloured outfits peeking out from underneath. After about 30 seconds of this, the company form a circle around Giselle and Trog starts to wonder, "What does it all mean ?".
Next the stage clears and Albrecht (Darius James) appears, dressed in a grey suit and a greyish shirt. His friend Wilfred (Ricki Beroni) wanders on and Albrecht disguises himself by removing his coat and his ring. The cad! He is an adulterer. I'm not sure if removing one's coat is much of a disguise, but wearing a sword would probably be very silly with his business suit.
The "he loves me, loves me not" pdd is quite energetic in this production, consisting of a sequence of grande jetes, pas de chat and assembles. The usual gag with the flower appears; the flower is hardly subtle either, being the size of a dinner plate. During the petal scene both LM and DJ use their faces very well; I have seen the company before and I reckon LM is very expressive in the other roles I have seen her dance.
The confrontation with Hillarion (Jonathan Keytes) sees each dancer performing a long diagonal sequence of jetes and assembles. I don't think the choreography here tells the story very well; the lady sitting next to me was certainly confused with the action.
For the harvest scene the dancers have removed their leather coats and their brightly coloured outfits make this look very cheery. Each dancer wears a different colour; yellow, orange, blue and rainbow stripes, and each has an different style of costumes; shorts, 3/4 length trousers or a long skirt. These outfits are in direct contrast to Giselle's silver/grey short shift, with floor length grey cardigan; she has her long hair down too. Anyway this scene is very bright (and brightly lit too). It certainly gave me a lift. Not sure what we are harvesting though!
The hunting horn announces Hillarion performing a slow solo; it seemed to me he was questioning himself. He sees Albrecht don he ring and is jacket, and runs to tell Giselle. Ahh good! The cad will be exposed and H and G will live happily ever after thinks Trog.
Bathilde (Claire Boyd) billed as Albrecht's fiance, arrives with three other ladies (Vanessa Gould, Amy Doughty, Matilde Pedriera) dressed in long grey skirts, long gloves and very silly blonde afro style wigs. They look quite haughty and gave me the impression of society deb's rather than being royals. (Do society deb's still exist or have I just seen too many films ?) Giselle enters and performs some very strange port de bras reminiscent of hiding something in your cupped hands and teasing someone. She executes a very smooth and fluid solo and the audience gave their first round of applause. LM made this solo look completely effortless, even though these were some quite tricky steps in it. The deb's give Giselle an impromptu lesson of charm school skills but they won't accept her into their circle.
In the run up to the end of act one, there is a scene that looks like it is supposed to be in a night club. There is a nice pd3 by ladies and very nice pdd with Wilfred and one of the girls. She is replaced by another lady after a brief solo; the original lady returns and confronts Wilfred about his infidelity. There is also a very odd pdd with two ladies putting on makeup. This whole section looks like padding to me. We finish act one with Hillarion producing both Bathilde and Albrecht's coat. Giselle finds a vegetable knife in the pocket, kills herself (most unconvincing). She eventually dies in Albrecht's arms (takes forever) and he flees leaving Bathilde standing over Giselle's body.
Act two has the music playing to closed curtains for a very long time. Eventually they open to reveal a bare stage. The backdrop features a very strange moon/sun combination. Myrta (CB) enters dressed in a long sleeved/long legged white leotard with a close fitting pearl head dress. This image appears on the poster and on the front of the program. Parts of the original choreography are present but much is new. Mostly this sequence consists of some very deep plies in second, with the head titled and some odd clutching of the arm.
The other three Wilies are in white and/or silver skirts, made from metallic fabric. The outfits would not look out of place in a night club. Wilfred pops up first and has a brief solo before being scared off by the Wilies. Giselle enters wearing close to the traditional costume. The pd5 here was very serene, with the Wilies grouped and Giselle to one side. There is another sequence of grande jetes; I suppose ghosts do fly after all.
Albrecht enters in a trench coat and holding flowers. His solo of remorse lacks verve I felt. He gives his coat to Wilfred (who mysteriously reappears) and falls asleep by his flowers. Giselle enters and performs a solo which features parts of her usual second act solo. The stage clears and Hillarion enters for a big solo. This is completely different to the usual solo. Enter the Wilies and they beat him up! He dies, so nice guys do finish last!
The grande pdd with G+A was well received and features all the big lifts one could want. Next we get Albrecht and the four Wilies. DJ performs a series of those beaten assembles from the Bluebird solo in Sleeping Beauty; I can never remember the name of this step but I know it starts with the letter V! Anyway DJ does these rather well, which is probably why he featured them.
So Giselle saves Albrecht from the Wilies, so it's ok to be a cad. Giselle couru's off leaving him for a last walk around. But wait Myrta reappears for one final penche and leaves Albrecht clutching his flowers.
So how was it ? Quite nice but I didn't find is as strong a ballet as the company's Twelfth Night or Midsummer Nights Dream. The piece was very well received by the audience, which probably proves I know nothing. I did enjoying watching it.