Monday, February 5, 2007

Ballet Review: Giselle

Faced with a cold and only the energy to go to one event: the ballet Giselle or a Superbowl party, which would you choose?

Well, I am my mother's daughter, a true Francophile, and a ballet fanatic, so I chose Giselle. I still feel butterflies when the lights dim and a hush falls as the curtain opens and the first dancer takes the stage.

For those of you that don't know the plot - Giselle is about a beautiful young woman, closely guarded by her mother, who happens to have two suitors. One is a young man of means, and one, to use the vernacular, is a boy from the 'hood. The two men have several flamboyant fights over her, and eventually the man of means becomes engaged to someone else - a noble woman.

Poor Giselle is so grief stricken that she collapses - dead from a broken-heart. The second act is full of lovely ghosts, and a number of lovely solos by Giselle with a final challenge between the two suitors.

I loved it. Quite nearly every minute of it. I was struck by how fluid and free the Pennsylvania Ballet is. The lines were not nearly as crisp as the Balanchine-trained New York City Ballet, but there was a certain freedom of movement that seemed to retain more joy than structure. I was startled by this fluidity at first, mistaking it for a lack of training, but after adjusting to it, I found it refreshing.

The Sunday matinee crew was out in full-effect as well! Besides my wonderful hostess, we were surrounded by a tortured young boy of about 6 or 7 years, whose mother was so pleased with the Nutcracker's effects on her two young children that she bought season tickets. This poor young man was NOT one of Giselle's suitors and tired of her nearly immediately. (Oh, he sounds more like a suitor of mine!)

Directly to our right was "Joe" and his elderly wife. The woman was clearly suffering from Alzheimer's or some level of dementia, and every time one of the male dancer's took the stage, she said "Who's that!" - very loudly. Joe was very patient, except during intermission when he nearly caused a half-dozen of us to have heart-attacks by screaming at her "I WILL HOLD THE COATS - GIVE THEM TO ME!"

The young boy, Joe, and his wife were all solemn reminders that we mortals are not so lucky to die from broken hearts. Life continues. It tests our fortitude, it tests our patience, and very rarely do we feel so much joy that we are compelled to dance.

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