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 Post subject: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2002 8:19 am 
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Giselle by Singapore Dance Theatre
13-16 March 2002, Kallang Theatre
Choreography by Jean-Paul Comelin, after Jules Perrot & Jean Coralli

"designed by Peter Cazalet, Giselle was a triumph for the Singapore Dance Theatre: well-suited to show off the various talents of the company dancers. Comelin has added touches that make the story lifelike and convincing, thus enabling the whole company to demonstrate its fine ability to act."

- Margaret Willis, Dancing Times UK, 2000

<small>[ 11-12-2002, 06:00: Message edited by: Malcolm Tay ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Fri Mar 15, 2002 10:29 pm 
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This traditional staging of <I>Giselle</I> by Jean-Paul Comelin was first presented by the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) in December 1999, with National Ballet of Canada principals Chan-Hon Goh and Aleksandar Antonijevic performing the lead roles on the opening night gala. This year's season was dedicated to the memory of SDT's Founder-Patron and former Head of State, Ong Teng Cheong, who recently passed away. <P>The role of Giselle was alternated between two China natives - Xia Hai Ying, by now an SDT dancer for 9 years, and Guo Fei. Guo was a Guangzhou Ballet principal (1995-2001) who joined SDT last year. Kuik Swee Boon and Cheng Hsienfa, both SDT veterans, took turns to play Albrecht. There were also 2 guest artists who played Hilarion and Myrtha - Alberta Ballet principal Michel Faigaux and Sakura Shimizu, respectively. <P>It has been almost a year since the last time I saw the company perform, so I wasn't too surprised to find several new faces, as well as some old ones missing. The company, however, still remains at its usual compact size of 21. Which is why the crop of peasants, Wilis and nobles had to be augmented with the help of students from the Singapore Ballet Academy (SBA) and others. The SBA is, in no way, a full-time ballet training institute like the Royal Ballet School or School of American Ballet. <P>Someone once told me that SDT "looks funny" when they do the Romantic classics. I agree to a certain extent. They don't look quite at home, or as persuasive, as they do in the one-act ballets of Choo-San Goh and others. But SDT is, after all, the country's first and only professional ballet company - we can't always depend on some visiting company to bring the full-length classics, can we? On the March 15 performance, it appeared to be a full house, so perhaps Singaporeans can identify with story ballets. <P>Having never previously watched <I>Giselle</I> in its entirety, I didn't know what to expect - I didn't know which sections have been left out, or where the choreography was different from other stagings. This production has the Queen's leading Wilis, Zulma and Moyna; I understand that these roles, according to the programme notes, have been omitted altogether in other versions. <P>On the evening of March 15, Guo Fei and Cheng Hsienfa were Giselle and Albrecht. As a young peasant girl giddy with love, Guo is delicate and, well, even cute. As a Wili, she is ethereal, selfless, other-worldly. But during her mad scene, I'm not sure how I should feel. She looked deranged, and yet not really. With her hair undone, she recalls her earlier he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not petal plucking, but with an intensity that almost threatens to tear her apart. In this version, she wounds herself with Albrecht's sword, and dies in his arms. I wonder if this mad/death scene is typical of other productions of <I>Giselle</I>?<P>Somehow, the rubbery-faced Cheng, passionate as he was, looks a little too old to play Albrecht, though this could be just a matter of taste. But imagine my horror when I realised that the noblewoman whom I assumed to be Albrecht's mother - yes, I know there's no such role here - was actually Bathilde (Megumi Sugita), his fiancée. Oops! <P>Now the Wilis. In Act II, one Wili appears in the background when the gravediggers gossip about them in mime. But for some reason, the audience laughed when this Wili bourréed from right to left - there was nothing funny about it. When the Wilis finally appeared, hopping across the stage with their travelling arabesques, it was like "BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!" My companion couldn't help but notice that it reminded her of a scene from BBC's <I>Walking With Dinosaurs</I> series. Maybe it's because we were sitting in the front row. <P>Shimizu looked exhausted as Myrtha. Her arabesques were wobbly. There was one section when her leaps along the diagonal landed very heavily on her right leg, with very little bend to cushion the impact. Again, the audience laughed when Giselle, who appears as a Wili for the first time, has her veil magically removed by Myrtha. (What is wrong with Singaporean audiences?) <P>At this point, I really need to ask - what is that green thing that Myrtha holds to magically cast away Giselle's veil? I thought it was sprigs of coriander. Or dill. And right at the end, what was it that Giselle leaves for Albrecht before she vanishes? I thought it was a cauliflower floret. I'd appreciate it if someone could tell me what these items are supposed to be - somehow, I don't think the ballet is meant to have a herb-and-vegetable theme. <P>[This message has been edited by Malcolm Tay (edited March 20, 2002).]<p>[This message has been edited by Malcolm Tay (edited March 20, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2002 8:19 pm 
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Location: Singapore
Hi Mal..<P> I was wondering if u dance?? just aasking... i'm also from singapore.


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 12:43 am 
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March 15, 2002<BR><B>Giselle's lead dancer sparkles</B><P>By Cheah Ui Hoon <BR>The Business Times, Singapore <P> Image <P>IF raucous audience appreciation is anything to go by, the newest lead dancer in Singapore Dance Theatre has won over the local audience with her impassioned performance of Giselle. <P>Guo Fei, formerly the principal dancer with Guangzhou Ballet from 1995 to 2001, gave a commendable performance in her role as Giselle - a tragic ballet about a peasant girl whose affections are misplaced on a royal count - on the production's opening night on Wednesday. <BR> <BR>In the role, she was lithe and featherlight, but also demonstrated an exacting steeliness in her legwork. Her technical skill was most ably demonstrated in the second half of the programme, in her seemingly effortless glide across the stage on pointe, and in her graceful pas de deux with Albrecht, the count, danced by Cheng Hsienfa. <P><A HREF="http://business-times.asia1.com.sg/thearts/story/0,2276,38943,00.html?" TARGET=_blank><B>More</B></A><P>(Available only for the next 7 days)<P><p>[This message has been edited by Malcolm Tay (edited March 18, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 4:47 am 
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Interesting concept, a herb and vegetable themed Giselle. Image <P>I have to concur with your friend's opinion of SDT in full-length story ballets, which is why I decided to give Giselle a miss. I'm probably being superficial here, but I'm hoping my first live Giselle will be a magical experience, and unluckily I haven't yet seen a single SDT performance where a principal dancer doesn't fall down (usually accompanied with a great deal of noise too) during a particularly engaging moment. I'm sticking to my videotapes for now.<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Again, the audience laughed when Giselle, who appears as a Wili for the first time, has her veil magically removed by Myrtha. (What is wrong with Singaporean audiences?) <HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>Probably a lack of ballet-going experience combined with SDT's inability to enthrall them into paralytic silence. <P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>At this point, I really need to ask - what is that green thing that Myrtha holds to magically cast away Giselle's veil? I thought it was sprigs of coriander. Or dill. And right at the end, what was it that Giselle leaves for Albrecht before she vanishes? I thought it was a cauliflower floret. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE> <P>If it's not a traditional Giselle motif, given SDT's penchant for heightened sybolism and the recent campaign to distill elitist art forms, I'm guessing a 1000-year old <I>lingzhi</I>. <P>By the way Malcolm, have you checked out NLB's ballet video collection and the Central Library's dance shelves?


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 7:26 am 
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Hi shazna, <P>1000-year-old <I>lingzhi</I>? Hahahaha! Why didn't I think of that?<P>Funnily enough, I have yet to see a single SDT dancer fall onstage. BUT I have seen one ABT corps dancer fall on her butt, and one soloist close to slipping during curtain call. Odd, eh? Image<P>Yes, I have checked out the dance shelves at the NLB and Central Library, and they're not too bad, though quite a few of those videos have been shown on Arts Central. Now I just have to find the time to borrow a few. <p>[This message has been edited by Malcolm Tay (edited March 18, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 7:47 am 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
OK, let me ask the obvious question - what in tarnation is a <I>lingzhi</I> and are they better when they are 1000 years old.....like me?


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Mon Mar 18, 2002 8:24 am 
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To R.A.D. girl: No, I don't dance, though I have taken lessons before.<P><BR>-----------------------------------------<P><BR>Dear Stuart,<P>I am not totally sure of its exact definition and origins, but I shall try to explain anyhow.<P>Essentially, <I>lingzhi</I> is one of those mysterious Chinese herbs that is said to have numerous health benefits - what exactly those benefits are, I don't know. It resembles a mushroom to some extent, with a long stem and a flat cap. Just like the 1000-year-old <I>ginseng</I>, the older it is, the better it supposedly is. <P>In some stories from Chinese mythology like "Madam White Snake", you may even find the 1000-year-old <I>lingzhi</I> being mentioned as a magical, life-restoring herb, only to be found on the most remote of mountains, heavily guarded by some sacred creature. (But I could be wrong, of course.)<P><p>[This message has been edited by Malcolm Tay (edited March 18, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2002 1:40 am 
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In which case it makes perfect sense for Myrtha to wield a <I>lingzhi</I> as she resurrects broken-hearted girls for her troupe of Wilis. And just think about it, if Giselle didn't leave one behind for Albrecht, how would he survive his marathon dance-till-dawn encounter? Undoubtedly due to the restorative properties of ancient Chinese herbs, possibly double-boiled in the palace ******* by Bathilde. <P>Malcolm: Did you go on the second night? I remember a dancer falling during Themes and Variations. Kallang Theatre has a rather horrid stage surface for ballet performances. With some luck, the new Esplanade will be better which may encourage a few more comapanies to come, ballet-deprieved as we are.


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2002 3:04 am 
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Malcolm, I checked my copy of Beaumont last night and the herb in question is actually a branch of rosemary. <P>According to Shakespeare, rosemary signifies remembrance, which would make sense in that context. However rosemary is a delicate looking herb and doesn't seem to resemble the stage props I've seen waved around in act II.


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2002 3:15 am 
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Hi Cassandra, thanks for checking it up. I can tell you for sure that the thing Myrtha was waving around was way too green and too fluffy to be rosemary Image<P>shazna: Perhaps SDT and Chinese Theatre Circle should collaborate on a new "Giselle" with all kinds of magical Chinese herbs waved and thrown around for good measure. Ha! And yes, I went on the 2nd night of ABT's run in Singapore - one corps dancer definitely fell in "Theme and Variations" (the whole audience gasped in unison) and soon after, Marcelo Gomes nearly slipped during curtain call. I suspected that the Kallang Theatre stage isn't very pleasant to dance on.<BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2002 7:45 pm 
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The greenery you mention can be a lot of things, depending ont he production. In most that I've seen it's roses for Myrtha's variation (??? Who knows why? Easy to get, somewhat durable in bud form?) and lilies for Albrecht. Lots of lilies, since they symbolize death and also rebirth. Cassandra is quite right about the rosemary, but in Balanchine's story of the ballets, he refers to a fern from the lakeside. I've also seen twigs used. I guess they look more bare and menacing?<P>Rereading Beaumont, I realize that I forgot that in the original, Giselle was sort of overgrown by flowers and grass as she sank into her grave. I wonder why no one has ever tried that effect. It seems a little more theatrical than just turning and walking offstage.<P>"Walking with Dinosaurs". Now that's hilarious! LOL<P>ME Image


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2002 8:38 pm 
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Hi meHunt, thanks for the info. The thing is, in this production, the greenery that Myrtha was holding in her variation, and the stuff that she was waving to cast away Giselle's veil, was totally different. For the latter, it was green and fluffy - I suppose it could be, according to Balanchine, a fern. There were also lilies, a lot of which Giselle sprinkled over Albrecht, but that was before she vanished. At the end, she dropped something really small and round - it definitely wasn't a lily.<P>*scratches head*<p>[This message has been edited by Malcolm Tay (edited March 20, 2002).]


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Fri Mar 22, 2002 12:22 am 
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You don't even want to know what I think that could be! Image


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 Post subject: Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
PostPosted: Mon Mar 25, 2002 10:13 pm 
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Shazna, try us! Image


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