English National Ballet ended its winter season with a revival of Giselle.
This is Mary Skeaping’s devotedly Romantic staging, fruit of many years of research, first seen in 1971. It has beautiful design by David Walker – the second act forest is all mystery – and the re-ordering of what we like to think of as traditional incident, and the opening of cuts in the score, are justified by Skeaping’s studies.
What flaws there are can be found in the first act, where every least twitch of plot or behaviour must be explained, and the action is so riddled with mime that (as with woodworm in the timbers of an old house) you expect it to crumble amid the brouhaha of characters explaining themselves.
But it is, in its second act, exemplary, and the heart of the ballet lies there, in the vaporous evolutions of a spectral (and admirably disciplined) corps de ballet, and in the airy agonisings of Giselle and Albrecht. On Wednesday night Agnes Oaks showed us a well-reasoned Giselle, touching in the mad scene, dulcet in step and pose as the revenant. Thomas Edur was a prodigious Albrecht, his gifts being those of dramatic intelligence (nothing facile, nothing forced) and noblest classic style, the dance moving us not least by its aristocracy of means.
I found Elena Glurdjidze, who appeared on the following evening, a fascinating Giselle. In the first act she surmounts a dismal costume and the mimetic flummery that rages unchecked around her, and portrays a young woman who is trusting, and whose trust betrayed leads to terrible shock and madness.
Her dancing is long-phrased and with a beautiful and deeply Russian sense of continuity, with step and gesture shown as a long cantilena of dynamics. As the Wili, she emerges from the tomb and, freed from the weight of the earth, soars eagerly. In the ensuing scenes she pours out movement that is eloquent with feeling, protective love. She is a true and notable Giselle.
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