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The Washington Ballet - 'Giselle'

Washington endorsing corps values

by Carol Herron

October 22, 2004 -- Eisenhower Theatre, Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.

I went to see "Giselle" by the Washington Ballet with a little lovely local ballet taking on one of the most revered classics. But I was not disappointed (sigh of relief) The Washington Ballet did this dance justice, and performed with precision, beauty and panache.

Elizabeth Gaither performed as Giselle and in the first act did a credible job. Her acting is excellent and she played the coy, sweet peasant girl to perfection, but her dancing seemed to me a little flat and her right foot seemed to be bothering her a little. Then came the mad scene. Wow, what a wonderful actress she became.  She played the part perfectly, it would have been so easy to overact but she did an incredible job of acting mad but oh, so sad and poignant. Runqiao Du as Albrecht was good.  His dancing is powerful but not particularly spectacular - his acting passable. As Hilarion, Alvaro Palau was alright, but exhibited no real passion in his acting or dancing.

Laura Urgelles was wonderful in the Peasant pas de deux; her smile was so genuine and her dancing was light and joyful. However, her partner, a new member of the Washington Ballet, Marcello Martinez, looked rather nervous and quite shaky in the lifts. But in his solos Marcello showed increasing confidence.

The Washington Ballet used their Studio Company to fill out their numbers and they did an excellent job. In the first act, the corps dancing was good although a couple of the men had a few bobbles. But in the second act, the corps de ballet performed amazingly. I was astounded by their accuracy and precision and timing. The Wilis were wonderful.

The second act was dominated by Giselle (as a ghost) dancing to save her 'lover.'  Elizabeth Gaither has always seemed to me to have a most ethereal quality and as a Wilis she absolutely shone. Ethereal, ghostly, light, transcendent, (I cannot think of enough adjectives to describe her). I would say Giselle in the second act is Elizabeth Gaither's role - it fits her style and acting ability beautifully.

Runqiao Du showed off his power in the second act.  His lifts were effortless, Giselle was weightless in his hands. But again, his dancing was good but did not make me want to cheer out loud.

Erin Mahoney, as the queen of the Wilis, was very vengeful. But the corps, as the Wilis, gave the performance of their collective lives. I can honestly say they were the best I have ever seen, any time, any place. They were so well rehearsed, so well placed according to size, and so together, they performed as one, rather than as individuals. They got a huge round of applause.

The sets, by Simon Pastukh, and the costumes by Galina Solovyeva were lovely. The set for the second act was applauded before a single dancer showed.

Overall, I would say Giselle is a triumph for the Washington Ballet.

Edited by Jeff.

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