Review: Giselle

The ENB's Giselle is traditional and beautiful.




English National Ballet, London Coliseum 


The English National Ballet has, unusually, staged two versions of Giselle this season: Akram Khan’s modern take on the popular classic, and Mary Skeaping’s more traditional offering, which is currently on at the London Coliseum.

You won’t find a better production than Skeaping’s version of this beautiful ballet. There are no liberties taken with the story, nor with the dancing. What you get is pure romantic ballet at its best: the company is in fine form, with the corps de ballet dancing particularly well, especially in Act Two, where they make up the scariest bunch of Wilis (vengeful spirits of maidens who died before their wedding) you are likely to see. The eerie pale green lighting in the gloomy graveside setting certainly adds to the atmosphere – no wonder the men trapped by these ghostly wraiths run for their lives.

On the matinee I attended, there were several debuts in principal roles.

Alison McWhinney was a light and delicate Giselle, with especially graceful port de bras and beautiful elevation in her effortless jumps.  She is overwhelmed when the Prince and his entourage visit – she quickly wipes a stool with her dress so that Bathilde (Albrecht’s real fiancée) can sit down, and is then entranced by the luxury of Bathilde’s gown in comparison to her own frock.

Albrecht was Yonah Acosta, who is literally following in some famous footsteps – his uncle is Carlos Acosta.  He danced with feeling and real love for his lost beloved. Jung ah Choi was a cold and heartless Myrtha, but the role demands more elevation. Praise must go to Crystal Costa, who shone in the Act One peasant pas de deux. She is a real firecracker of a dancer, with neat, precise footwork and a sunny personality.

It’s nice to see that the production sticks fairly faithfully to Adam’s original score. There will be a few passages not familiar to today’s audiences (especially those more used to the Royal Ballet’s version) but these small changes merely add to the enjoyment.

The ENB’s Giselle is at the London Coliseum until 22 January.

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