Compañía Nacional de Danza Review: Giselle à la Espagnol

On the heels of Compañía Nacional de Danza’s successful return to Teatro Real, the company held its world premiere of Artistic Director Joaquin De Luz’s “Giselle” at another of Madrid’s renowned performing arts venues, Teatro de la Zarzuela.

Bringing to life a new vision of an epitomized classical ballet is an ambitious task and in De Luz’s case it would be better classified as a reinvention. He put together a team of experts in musical direction, libretto writing, dramaturgy, scenography, lighting sound, video, and costume design; many of them with little experience in working with a ballet company. This decision was intentional though as De Luz “didn’t want to do a traditional ‘Giselle’. For that [he] could have rented a production.”

There is much significance to De Luz having decided to set his multimedia – cinematic and voiceover are key elements to his version – “Giselle” during the period of Spanish Romanticism. He is including the history of his country in the classical ballet canon and bringing to the forefront the rich cultural influence this short early 19th century movement had, all to a primarily Spanish audience. Inspired by the writings of one of the country’s most famous poets, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, this story takes place in a small village near Moncayo, Spain.

There are no artistic details left untouched as De Luz makes some alterations to assure that there are no incongruences in the presentation. Aside from the costumes obviously needing to appropriately reflect the time and location, we also see how Bathilde’s necklace gift to Giselle is replaced with a peineta, Albrecht’s sword replaced with a pistola, and the introduction of Giselle’s mantilla as a symbol of her love for Albrecht.

Compañía Nacional de Danza - Giselle
Giada Rossi in Joaquín De Luz's Giselle © Alba Muriel

Musically, there are a few not-so-subtle modifications done in this arrangement which go hand-in-hand with choreographic decisions made. Surprisingly wonderful is the introduction of (off-stage) castanets during the peasant pas de deux. Although at first shocking to an accustomed ear, when we see that the couple is dancing a jota (an Aragonese folk dance) influenced duet, all falls into place. Haruhi Otani and Yanier Gómez are artistically charming and technically brilliant, and the applause they receive is proof of how approving and appreciative the audience is.

Near the end of the first act, although maintaining Giselle’s obvious leitmotif, a dramatic shift from major to minor chords and scales during her evolving madness make for an amazingly intense, macabre, and sad scene, one that brings this writer unashamedly to tears. The transitions to and from this musical adaptation, though, are a bit jarring; but I imagine it is because we are not used to it.

Compañía Nacional de Danza - Giselle
Giada Rossi in Joaquín De Luz's Giselle © Alba Muriel

Giada Rossi‘s interpretation of this iconic ballet figure leave no doubts about her being cast for the world premiere. She plays a gentle Giselle, a clearly adoring daughter and loyal lover. Rossi’s upper body and arms are light yet not wilted, and despite not sustaining some of her balances as much as the musical notes encourage, she is equally strong in both acts. She executes the (in)famous series of entrechat quatres with an enviable ease and precision.

Her Albrecht – danced by Alessandro Riga – takes a little more convincing. He is a little shaky in his first act solo but makes up for it amongst the Wilis. 

First having impressed me in Nacho Duato’s “White Darkness”, Isaac Montllor does not fail as Hilarion. His acting is so believable and genuine that I find myself wanting to scream from the second tier to Giselle, “Just listen to him! He loves you and is telling the truth!” But alas, the story must unfold on its own.

Compañía Nacional de Danza - Giselle
Giada Rossi and Alessandro Riga in Joaquín De Luz's Giselle © Alba Muriel
Compañía Nacional de Danza - Giselle
Giada Rossi and Alessandro Riga in Joaquín De Luz's Giselle © Alba Muriel

When De Luz mentioned in a press conference that he had modified about sixty percent of the choreography in Act II (he estimated twenty percent in Act I), I gasped. After seeing the result, I wanted to cry with joy.

This makes for my third live “Giselle” over the past 437 days and although Boston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre have wonderful productions, this is by far the best second act I have seen. And this is despite Kayoko Everhart‘s lackluster Myrtha (this is not entirely her doing although her arabesque promenades and penchés are unstable; the role is hardly given any choreography!)

Credit goes to the impeccable corps de ballet, their ballet master/mistress, and the renewed choreography. Yes, the Wilis have their recognized feet-throbbing motionless moments on the edges of stage right and left, but more often than not they are moving, transitioning seamlessly from one formation to the next, dancing with utmost synchronicity. Led by Ana María Calderón and Otani’s Moina and Zulma, respectively, the spirits preserve graceful etherealism while demonstrating resolution to have the intruding men dance to their deaths.

Compañía Nacional de Danza’s Giselle will run from December 9-22 at Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid, Spain.

No performances found!

Featured Photo of Giada Rossi and Compañía Nacional de Danza in Joaquín de Luz’s Giselle © Alba Muriel

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American Ballet Theatre Review: Giselle is a Gem

The standing ovation at the end of America Ballet Theatre’s Giselle at The Kennedy Center  last night does not do the performance justice. The combination of ingredients – exquisite dancing, expert staging, elegant costume and sets – is a recipe that Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie has mastered.

Granted, he has some of the world’s best talent at his fingertips, but that in itself does not guarantee success. McKenzie’s staging of Giselle, the epitome of romantic classical ballet, is based on the original choreography by Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa. The nuances of gesture and choreographic expression though are what make this particular production rise above the average and elevate it to the level by which America’s National Ballet Company® is revered for. Anna Anni’s costumes so cohesively compliment Gianna Quaranta’s scenery; Giselle’s blue and Bathilde’s scarlet dresses appropriately standing out amongst an otherwise autumnal-hued first act, and the second act Wilis in their white tutus creating the desired ethereal effect in the somber forest.

American Ballet Theatre - Hee Seo - Giselle
Hee Seo as Giselle in American Ballet Theatre's Giselle. Photo © Gene Schiavone

Hee Seo was born to be Giselle. She has a playful youthfulness in Act I and a sweet tranquility in Act II, both underscored by just how simply breathtaking she is. She expertly converses with face, hands, and feet, the latter expertly supple while supporting her in weightless jumps and speedy batterie. Cory Stearns is her perfect Albrecht; their musicality is of one, their epaulment never failing to harmonize, their partnering provoking audible gasps from the audience. He is wonderfully charming in the first act, but it is later by his love’s grave that he really has a chance to shine. His dancing is all together so elegant, gravity-defying, and expressive.

American Ballet Theatre - Devon Teuscher - Giselle
Devon Teuscher as Myrta in American Ballet Theatre's Giselle. Photo © Gene Schiavone

From the moment she enters, crossing the stage with bourrées that must be the envy of every ballerina around the globe, Devon Teuscher claims her territory as the Queen of the Wilis. Her portrayal of the leader of them all fuses technical prowess, corporeal grace, and intellectual astuteness. She soars through the air with such power while never losing sight of facial serenity and strong femininity.

American Ballet Theatre - Willis - Giselle
Scene from American Ballet Theatre's Giselle. Photo © Gene Schiavone

Following suit, the Wilis are incredibly synchronized both in movement and poise. It is clear that the company values the beauty and importance of a corps de ballet; the ladies seem so well-rehearsed and better yet, invested in the importance of their presence.


American Ballet Theatre will be performing Giselle at The Kennedy Center through February 16, 2020. Because each performance features a different cast of principal dancers, this impeccable one will not be gracing the stage again this run. But if they are any representation of what is to come, audiences will be not be disappointed.


Featured Photo of American Ballet Theatre’s HeeSeo in Giselle  © Gene Schiavone


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Kennedy Center

Boston Ballet Review: Capturing the Essence of Giselle

Boston Ballet‘s season opener Giselle is not only a theatrical and artistic delight, but a lesson in the values of classical ballet tradition. As much as contemporary ballet choreographers of today are stretching predefined boundaries and creating new voices to be heard, it is also important that the vocabulary of the classical greats Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, Marius Petipa is not lost in translation. Former Ballerina and present company Ballet Mistress Larissa Ponomarenko has imparted her decades of experience to the current cast of company dancers in her adaptation of this iconic romantic ballet.

The brilliant star of the show is Seo Hye Han and not simply because she portrays the title character. Han’s talent stretches beyond her technical aptitude to the expressiveness of her hands, the sweet subtle tilts of her head, and the way she has of making the viewers feel emotionally invested in her fictional journey. Based on audience reaction, Han’s execution of the iconic series of entrechat quatres and passé relevés in the second act was a memorable moment; it was wonderful to hear applause in appreciation of the quick and precise footwork – no fouettés needed to impress. Most notable is the lack of tension in her arms throughout the entire ballet, so much so that even watching her from only the waist up has the power to take your breath away.


 Junxiong Zhao and Irlan Silva are extremely compatible male counterparts to Han as Count Albrecht and Hilarion, respectively. The chemistry between Zhao and Han is magical; they are endearing without exaggeration. And in his solo moments, Zhao’s character interpretation with his clean bravura dancing make for a perfect combination. What a shame that we don’t see Silva dance until Act II as the strength in his jumps is as compelling as his acting.

Curious casting was that of Paulina Waski as Myrtha. If it were not for the tiara on her head, distinguishing her as the Queen of them all (the Wilis, that is) would have been a challenge. Regal emanation came gradually as the act progressed, but the lack of establishment of her essence at the beginning made it feel like a little too late. Moyna and Zulme – danced by Chisako Oga and Nina Matiashvili, respectively – were well-suited. Matiashvili was especially commanding of the stage; perhaps a Myrtha in the making?

Although the Boston Ballet’s run of Giselle is over, if this production is any indication of what’s in store for the rest of the season, we are all in for a treat.

Featured Photo of Boston Ballet in Giselle © Rosalie O’Connor

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Boston Ballet