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Subject: "Guillem's Giselle" Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #1875
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14-07-01, 09:40 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail lara Click to send private message to lara Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
"Guillem's Giselle"
   Last night I saw Giselle at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Southern California. I had an OK seat in the orchestra section - too far to the right so part of stage right was blocked by the curtain.

After I came home I watched parts of the La Scala film version with Ferri and Murru so that I could make some comparisons between the traditional version and Sylvie’s.

It is hard to do that with only one viewing of the newer Giselle, but here are my first impressions.

It seems to me that when a choreographer is going to rework a classic, the resulting work should be more than just different.

It should bring a new emotion to the piece, a new aesthetic. To be innovative and not just dissimilar.

This version did not meet that criteria.

Evidently Sylvie was trying to achieve a more realistic look at the ballet.

Well, a piece with dead girls dancing is not a realistic ballet to begin with!

Hilaire broke his foot in rehearsal so had to be replaced by Murru - who was great as Albrecht. I thought his performance was much better than on Wednesday night in Carmen.

His line was long and elegant with terrific jumps, neat feet and graceful hands that were not wimpy.

Hilarion, Andrea Volpintesta, was also very good - in the small amount of dance he did. His opening scene was lost behind a scrim and bad, bad lighting, which remained rather dim the whole ballet.

Sylvie danced beautifully, but not memorably, if that makes sense. Her choreography in Act I is almost ballet-lite - rather simplistic with many 180-degree, 'six o'clock' leg lifts. Impressive the first few times you see it, but then too much of a good thing is not a good thing.

At first I thought the lack of dance in the first act was so that Sylvie could show off more - nope, she didn't do that either!

The main set was drab — a movable thing that made a shallow stage even more shallow in the first act. It swung around and I could never figure out WHY! It was very annoying.

One side was Giselle’s front door and I think the other side was meant to be the opposite side of the street, it was hard to tell.

So what you had was a wide set piece that split the stage in half depth wise; drastically reducing the amount of actual dance space. Traditional would have been better here.

At the end of Act One the flat piece opened up into a three-sided tavern - which was pretty neat - bottles hanging down from the air added a “pub” feel to it.

If the set was drab then the costumes were more so. I read that the dresses and such were created by some big designer. Well, they were simply ugly. Bad hats and scarves covering up the girls hair.

They looked like the dresses my great-grandmother would have worn tilling the fields in the wild west.

No colour. Nothing to make them stand apart from the set. It all blended together in one brownish mush. Even Sylvie’s blue dress was drab.

The dancers wore NO makeup — which was ok if one was in the orchestra section of the house, but those poor people up in the tiers must not have been able to see any facial expressions I'll bet.

In comparing last night’s version with the film, much dance was left out - not nearly as much peasant dancing in the opening.

The wonderful peasant pdd by Deborah Gismondi and Antonio Sutera was reduced to one solo each. The dancers were very good in the limited amount of space they had but the few lifts and jumps were constrained.

Evidently Sylvie reduced the amount of mime to make for a cleaner story - but it didn’t really work all that well. Hard to tell what was going on if one didn’t know the story.

The loves me-loves me not flower scene was so understated and quick you could hardly see what was happening. Again I wonder what the folks in the tiers could see.

During the very long intermission ( they had to chance floors) I talked with several people. They like what they saw but were not hugely impressed ... one guy said, lots of motion, but not a lot of dance.

The applause was respectful, but not overwhelming.

Act II.

The stage was littered with these big faux boulders— three Wilis danced out among them — nice floating bourees.

Their costumes were quite lovely - variations on different wedding dresses. Very effective.

The three girls danced a bit and the rocks rose - up and up and up and there they hung. They blocked some of the light that was supposed to be on the dancers!

The corps and queen Wilis (Beatrice Carbone) actually had the best dance!

This was one part that I liked better than the traditional version. The Wilis’ movements were more lyrical and less rigid than in the film.

The theater had lighting problems in the second act. One key light wouldn’t stay on and another side/back light kept flashing just off-stage making it look as if the scene had poor lightning effects happening.

One of the things Guillem could have changed for the better would have been less walking around in the mourning scene of Act II

The Ferri version has Albrecht entering and walking around emoting to beautiful music in the Act II opening.

Last night the walking around seems to have been increased and there was less emoting.

This would have been a great opportunity for Guillem to add some poignant adagio dancing for Albrecht.

Technical problems caused the ending of the ballet to lose some of its impact. One of the smoke machines at the end made so much hissing noise it totally disrupted the tragic flow. Very disconcerting to say the least.

Lest I sound too negative, all in all I am glad I went. There was good dance - just too little of it.

I saw Sylvie dance and that was a treat because she is such a name. There were some good moments but just not enough to go WOW.

There was a long standing ovation at the end which told me that people really appreciated the second act. Murru was especially treated well as was Guillem.

My sense is that this is a somewhat condensed version of the traditional. And shorter in this case does not mean better.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Guillem's Giselle pantoose 15-07-01 1
     RE: Guillem's Giselle lara 15-07-01 2
         RE: Guillem's Giselle Jeff 17-07-01 3

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15-07-01, 04:16 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail pantoose Click to send private message to pantoose Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
1. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #0
   LAST EDITED ON 15-07-01 AT 04:17 PM (GMT)

Thanks for offering your thoughts on the performance, underwhelming as it seems to have been.

I feel major peformers are under pressure to make a mark in something beyond dancing. So many extend their careers by staging, adding choreography, acting, or working as an AD that every attempt can't be a contribution to the arts world. But then again, it's difficult to judge on the basis of a single work. I've had the same impression as you; sometimes these re-working of the classics just don't add up to a fresh contribution.

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15-07-01, 05:52 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail lara Click to send private message to lara Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
2. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #1
   In the New York Times story it says:

>>>>"For the traditional mad scene that closes Act I, when Giselle discovers that Albrecht is already betrothed, Ms. Guillem has even substituted acting for dancing before Giselle expires.

"She refuses to express such terrible pain through dancing," Dominique Frétard wrote in Le Monde in Paris after seeing the production in Helsinki. "Giselle simply snaps and is paralyzed. All she can do is weep. It is a scene that gives you goose bumps."<<<

I came to the ballet to watch people dance - not to watch acting substitued for dance - nor to watch people paralyzed and weeping.

Somehow I think Sylvie has lost her way in taking dance OUT of the ballet - isn't that what it is all about?

If I had wanted to see just acting, I would have gone to a play!

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17-07-01, 07:31 AM (GMT)
Click to EMail Jeff Click to send private message to Jeff Click to add this user to your buddy list  
3. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #2
   This is my first post, so be nice everybody.

“Giselle” performed by Sylvie Guillem appearing with La Scala Ballet with her own choreography as well as that based upon that of Perrot, Coralli, and Petipa. The reviews on this website only partially prepared me for the artistic decisions that Guillem has made. Foremost of all, she has completely rethought the thematic and formal contrasts between Act I of the village and festivities and Act II of the countryside and the Wilis. Act I features (for ballet) extremely naturalistic sets and detail. Guillem has moved “Giselle” from a fictional 18th century Rhineland to a more contemporary if more impoverished village that might be rural France or Italy. Concrete details abound – drab earthen walls, empty wine bottles, the clinking of cups and plates, the stock characters. Even the people look real down to an old man’s Parkinson’s tremor and Guillem’s banal dress, which looked like a housecoat and tended to hide her dance technique.

This profusion of detail and especially the emphasis with stage business (what with peasants conversing and playing with themselves, Giselle never really becomes the center of attention until the “mad scene”) inevitably foregrounds the thematic predominance of the community. In the traditional staging, Giselle is the center of attention – she is loved by two men, her variations are show stoppers, she his the queen of the harvest, etc. In this “Giselle,” the harvest celebration is translated to a winery or tavern for a grape stomping festivity of which Giselle is only one of many participants—real musicians play onstage, a drunk throws cups against the wall, women dance on tabletops, the corps dance around wicker baskets. However, for all the pastoral touches, Act I is not a simple world. Right from the first scene which shows Albrecht in conflict with his servant, Guillem portrays a world of instability. Act I, the world of community, is filled with threats. At the surface level of the plot, Giselle’s betrothal to Albrecht threatens the social order. But, Guillem has gone much further by showing threats to the very medium of the ballet. In several places, the characters communicate to each other not by pantomime but by miming spoken speech or by using everyday gestures – anything except dance movement. Berthe’s famous mime passage –perhaps the last legacy of mime in ballet-- is mockingly enacted by the villagers behind her back. The changing of the scenes indicated by the very unnaturalistic rotation of the set wall undermines the ballet’s apparent naturalism as much as it negates much of the potential stage space. Most tellingly, Berthe physically restrains Giselle from dancing along with the soloists in the “peasants pdd.”

If in Act I, Giselle was forbidden to dance (by her ailing heart, by Berthe), by contrast, in Act II, that is all she is asked to do. She must dance to save Albrecht, but also Myrtha commands her to dance to trap him within the Wilis enchanted circle. In distinction from Act I where the medium of dance was threatened by non-dance movement, in Act II all the characters must dance. That is, in effect, the Wilis real threat. They force first Hilarion then Albrecht to dance with them – yes, Myrtha actually dances arm around waist with the men. This idea, I think, accounts for the real power of Act II. The danger is not so much that Albrecht will dance to exhaustion, but that he will dance with the other women. And, I use the term women deliberately because unlike more traditional stagings of “Giselle,” the Wilis are all costumed differently, appearing in individual hair and prom dresses. There is a point where Myrtha dances a few steps in synchrony with Albrecht and Giselle must enter the enchanted circle to place herself between Albrecht and Myrtha. Later, as the Wilis force Albrecht to dance on, they dance around him in small circles until Giselle comes back to drive them away. If the stability of the community was paramount in Act I, a different community becomes the paramount danger in Act II. If Giselle’s love threatened social order in Act I, by redeeming Albrecht in Act II, her love justifies that danger. Artistically, Guillem has selected other details to foreground the contrast between acts. At the level of setting, we find that the harvest and the village dominated Act I, but Act II occurs on rocky, non-arable land. Guillem found it necessary to abandon the unity of time and place in Act I, but in Act II, these unities are preserved.

A close “reading” of Guillem’s “Giselle” could go on, but I’ll stop with a few observations. In terms of staging, one of the best innovations was bringing the musicians onstage. Music and dance have always gone together (despite Merce) and it is a joy to see and hear the dance onstage together. If I had any objection to Guillem’s “Giselle” it is that advance publicity didn’t prepare me for her artistic departures from a more traditional staging (I am particularly fond of Helgi Tomasson’s staging for San Francisco Ballet). Guillem has seriously rethought important aspects of “Giselle” and I almost missed this by wasting time erroneously comparing it to more traditional “Giselle’s,” a mistake that wouldn’t have been made with choreographers like Mats Ek and Matthew Bourne. Also, I know that I didn't comment upon individual dancers' strengths or technique, but I count upon other, more "dancer watcher" reviewers to do. Gilda Gelati danced on the Saturday matinee and was also totally convincing. In summary, I found that Sylvie deserved all 4 standing ovations that she received.

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