We may not have realized we needed a reminder of the astounding beauty of uber-classical ballet, but the Joffrey both reveals and sates this hunger in its two-hour staging of GISELLE.
Marking the ten-year anniversary of Ashley Wheater’s tenure as the Joffrey Artistic Director, the Joffrey reprises GISELLE, a ballet that the company was staging when he first took the helm.
Any production of GISELLE has a leg up, in all senses, by the great love story it dramatizes. A royal is smitten with an innocent country girl, hiding his real situation and stature in the world. When his true identity and betrothal to another are revealed, she dies of heartbreak. Or more precisely, she joins the tortured spirits of young maidens deprived of marriage, Wilis, who wreak revenge on their fate by luring men to a mortal dance to their graves.
Fairy tale though it be, the emotions of this story are raw. Conductor Scott Speck leads the Chicago Philharmonic playing 19th Century composer Adolphe Adam’s emotive music. Violin or flute solos signal that a ballerina is sparkling in a solo. Horns play as the royals approach. A harp tells us we are in a mystical other world of the Wilis spirits. The theme that joyful Giselle and Albrecht dance to in the opening of Act I returns with minor chords added as Giselle declines into madness and then again echoes in Act II when the lovers find one another again.
The choreography (Originally by Marius Petipa after Jen Coralli and Jules Perrot) and the performances powerfully convey the emotional core of the story. Lola de Avila’s lovely staging seems geared to highlight the ballet’s romanticism. When Giselle discovers her lover’s true identity we feel it as though we too were betrayed. When Albrecht mourns at Giselle’s grave we know his grief is inconsolable.
Joffrey Ballet Dancers – Technical Skill, Grace
The technical skill and grace of the Joffrey dancers is breathtaking at times, mesmerizing at others. The corps de ballet floats in veils with arms curved above their heads in just so precision. Then they give us floating arabesques, lines of six then twelve then eighteen carving the stage into triangles, or turning ensemble heads as one to punctuate a movement’s end. The Wilis soloists (April Daly, Nicole Ciaponi and Gayeon Jung) give sparkling solos and duets emerging in and out of the corps de ballet.
Your thoughts that dance doesn’t get better than this are short-lived, because Georgian power duo—Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili—regain center stage and your attention to raise the bar higher yet again. Jaiani seems to float above Suluashvili, curving her torso smoothly with absolutely no sign of exertion. Suluashvili’s jetes across the stage and caps it with tour de force entrechat prowess.
Kudos to Pittsburgh Ballet Theater and Peter Farmer for set and costume design, especially in Act II. As the curtain rises mists swirl about the stage presaging the collage of floating veils under a full moon dreamscape in the woods. Lighting design by Michael Mazzola draws our eye to moon or dancers as the moment requires.
Joffrey’s GISELLE is a triumph of grace and not to be missed by any lover of story ballets.
Read more about Chicago Philharmonic here - "Chicago Philharmonic BODY AND SOUL Concert Review – Love Both Spiritual and Carnal."
Thru October 29
Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 7:30pm
Friday, Oct. 20 at 7:30pm
Saturday, Oct. 21 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm,
Sunday, Oct. 22 at 2:00pm
Thursday, Oct. 26 at 7:30pm,
Friday, Oct. 27 at 7:30pm
Saturday, Oct. 28 at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
Sunday, Oct. 29 at 2:00pm
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
50 E. Congress Parkway
Tickets are available at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph Street
or the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University Box Office, or by telephone at 312.386.8905, or online at the Joffrey website.
.Photos: Cheryl Mann