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Paris Opera Ballet

Bewitched by Alina

'Giselle'

By Ileana

February 3, 2004 -- Palais Garnier, Paris

That night, like many in the audience at the Garnier Opera House, I discovered Alina Cojocaru, a 22-year-old Romanian dancer with an unusual career. Trained at the Kiev school, Cojocaru won the Lausanne prize at sixteen, which gave her the opportunity to round off her studies by six months at the Royal Ballet School in London. Then the Royal Ballet offered her a place in the corps de ballet, but she preferred to go back to Kiev, where she was engaged as a soloist. One year later she returned to the Royal Ballet, where she spent very little time as a guest artist: at nineteen, she was promoted to soloist in the role of Giselle.

Preceded by such a reputation, Alina might have been afraid of disappointing Paris audiences, yet she was greeted by a long, enthusiastic ovation.

Cojocaru is small with a delicate physique and features, dancing as she breathes, with breath all the way down to her fingertips. I found in her the exceptional quality which had recently charmed me in the Bolshoi dancers: that supple freedom in the upper body, that breath going from bust to shoulders, arms and hands. To that, Cojocaru adds amazing velocity in her feet underlining that sense of immateriality in her dancing. Her piétinés, menées, ballonnés and entrechats are astounding.

The role of Giselle suits her marvelously; she is truly that fragile girl who adores dancing, surrendering wholeheartedly (to love) after her initial resistance, then driven mad, her heart broken by betrayal. A girl in death as in life, she is that very spirit, that apparition haunting Albrecht, guiding him like a will-o'-the-wisp to the light of dawn. Nothing is excessive in Cojocaru's acting - she lives the part in all simplicity, and her way of living it is dance itself.

Manuel Legris was Loys-Albrecht. Only one of our best étoiles could pay tribute to the young Royal Ballet guest artist. Nevertheless, the age gap and Loys-Albrecht's unsubtle acting were most unsuitable to yesterday's simple Giselle. I myself would rather have seen Hervé Moreau dance by her side. On the other hand, Yann Bridard was a magnificent Hilarion, a bit rough in the first act, as he should be, yet superb in his all-too-brief appearance in the second act, when he frenziedly dances himself to death. In the harvesters' pas de deux, Benjamin Pech was brilliant, even better than the previous evening, and Mélanie Hurel, too stiff in her upper body, was more princess than peasant. Eleonora Abbagnato was a beautiful Queen of the Willis, but nothing more, lacking that icy fire which should set her above the others.

By the end of the evening, I had just one wish: to see Alina Cojocaru in another role, and soon.

Edited by Jeff

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