So Jung Shinof Philadelphia Ballet in “Giselle,” choreography by Angel Corella. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev.

Angel Corella’s Giselle

Philadelphia Ballet 2024

Written by:
Lewis Whittington
Share This:

Under a foggy blue moon, The Willis haunted the Academy of Music stage to the delight of many young balletomanes filling the rafters on opening night of Angel Corella’s production of ‘Giselle,’ At 180 years old, Giselle is a gothic ballet warhorse that companies can still bet on. Corella’s restaging of French choreographers Jean Carrolli and Jules Perot’s choreography is largely intact, but Corella’s variations more than dust it off– it remains a workout for a rotating cast of principal dancers, soloists, and corps members to switch off roles over the two-week run. In mid-March, the dancers are back in the Academy for their Modern Masterpieces bill with works by Alvin Ailey, Twyla Tharp, and William Forsythe.

Principal dancers Yuka Iseda and Zecheng Laing as Giselle and Count Albrecht led the opening night cast. The story opens as Albrecht, a nobleman out with his hunting party, sees Giselle in her garden and starts to flirt with her, passing himself off as a villager (in a velvet doublet no less). Meanwhile Hilarion, the lusty gamekeeper (soloist Austin Eyler) sees them together and is jealous since he is himself in love with Giselle. Soon this scene is interrupted by Albrecht’s hunting party swoops in and the Harvest festival begins. or a seasonal festival. Giselle dances for them and is given a necklace by Bathilde, a snooty royal. Meanwhile, Giselle’s mother cowers near their cottage, fretting that Giselle’s weak heart can’t take all this excitement, especially when Hilarion exposes Albrecht as a noblemen posing as a peasant and the men start to fight.

Iseda captivates Giselle, expressing the emotional arc from innocent first love to panic as her heart gives out, and her heroic visage as a ghostly spectral. Act I ends as Giselle’s frantically runs through the crowd in a panic, trying to dance as her heart gives out. Liang’s Albrecht is full of pathos and his solid technique that he is known for is on full display in this ballet..

Soloist Austin Eyler portrays Harilion, in a breakout performance that is both subtle and dynamic in what could easily be a one-dimensional role. Eyler is a natural actor and gifted character dancer proficient in the almost lost art of classical pantomime choreography. In Act II, Eyler’s leaps look decidedly feral, and he completely owns this part, his stage presence is electric.

The demanding Peasant pas de deux, performed by Sydney Dolan and Pau Pujol, and in this performance their partnering looked a bit knotted at key points, but their solo passages thrilled this audience. The women in supple pointe work unison and the men with razor sharp unison on the tour en’ l’air. All along the folkloric dances variations via French ballet classicism executed with robust esprit de corps. Corella’s village scenes are a showcase for the technical precision of the full corps de ballet and when not dancing they were in character not just extras.

Act II unfolds at the befogged graveyard with Albrecht distraught as he sees Giselle’s gravesite. He feels the presence of the Willis, those spectral virginal maidens who were abandoned at the altar before their death.

The Willis ethereal netherworld with the dancers floating onstage in petit flat-footed hops in groups that interlock. Myrtha summons Giselle into the fold. Iseda emerges from the grave and Iseda s performs a stunning reverse arabesque pirouette, another arresting moment, she performs an slow moving penche arabesque that mesmerizes. Albrecht feels her presence, he is just out of reach in this phantom dance, until she materializes and Iseda and Zecheng executes gorgeous weightless lifts sequences.

The Willis inch over the stage, in long white tutus it is hypnotic in its otherworldly effect and when the veils are whisked off all of the dancer all at once, there were gasps from the audience. Dayesi Torriente’s solos introduces the ritualized choreography of the Wilis. Myrtha, Queen of the Willis, commands that the abandoned brides exact revenge on both Albrecht and Hilarion by casting a spell that condemns them to death. Dayesi Torriente gives Myrtha an earthy regalness, the movement is full of cryptic expression peppered with powerful leaps.

The unique balletics of the Willis, cued by Torriente, with cryptic configurations laced with petit jumps, otherworldly choreo and ensemble friezes. As he did with Carmen last year, Corella adjustments in the character naturalness, the animation and immediacy of the group scenes, and the precision of the bravura dancing that doesn’t upstage the narrative flow of the story.

Adolphe Adams’ ballet score has a few famous melodies, but PB’s musical director-conductor Beatrice Affron keeps those Adams academic processionals and bouncy pastorales dimensional. And the haunting atmospherics in dances of the Willis and the narrative passages lushly symphonic. Among the outstanding principals were cellist Jennie Lorenzo’s sonorous solo for Albrecht’s mournful entrance in Act II and was Principal Violist Hannah Nicholas in Giselle and Albrecht’s final dance.

In the ongoing conversations about choreography that I shared with Fernando Alonso, architect of the Cuban ballet training system, he...
American Ballet Theatre’s farm team, the Studio Company, is made up of 13 dancers age 17-21. These aren’t just any...
A dark scrim with the words Anna Karenina projected on it disappears into projected vapors that threaten to obscure the...
Search CultureVulture