REVIEW: Giselle/Men Y Men, English National Ballet, Coliseum near Trafalgar Square

PUBLISHED: 15:13 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:44 07 September 2010

THREE STAR RATING by Edward Thorpe English National Ballet s final production for their Coliseum season is Mary Skeaping s carefully researched version of Giselle. Skeaping (1902-

Giselle/Men Y Men

English National Ballet

Coliseum

near Trafalgar Square

THREE STAR RATING

by Edward Thorpe

English National Ballet's final production for their Coliseum season is Mary Skeaping's carefully researched version of Giselle.

Skeaping (1902-1984) danced with Anna Pavlova's company, she was a teacher, a ballet historian and responsible for numerous productions of the classics. So this production is imbued with the correct Romantic style of the early 19th century.

Even so, there are one or two oddities about the scenario. Why is the Duke of Courland's hunting party without accompanying huntsmen or any evidence of their success in the field?

It seems that he and his retinue are merely wandering about the countryside tasting the new wine at each village.

Peter Wright's version for the Royal Ballet, which provides cogent reasons for each development of the drama, has taught us to look for logic in a production of this Rhineland legend.

Giselle, of course, depends for its success almost entirely upon the ballerina dancing the eponymous role and, in the cast I saw, Elena Glurdjidze, born in Tbilisi in Georgia and trained in St Petersburg, was simply superb.

Extremely pretty, technically fluent, dramatically expressive, she is ideal casting for the delicate peasant girl who gives her heart to aristocratic Albrecht posing as a peasant but actually betrothed to Bathilde, the Duke's daughter.

Glurdjidze's first act mad scene was convincingly done. From the moment that Hilarion, her would-be unrequited peasant lover, shows her Albrecht's sword her initial disbelief grows through shock and despair to loss of reason and death.

In the second act, initiated into the rites of the vengeful Wilis by Myrtha, their Queen, Giselle must be an ethereal spirit, the antithesis of the peasant girl.

It is here that Glurdjidze's perfect technique is shown to advantage, beautifully poised, gossamer-light with soaring elevation, she was as enchanting a wraith as any of the many great ballerinas I have seen in this role.

As Albrecht, Arionel Vargas came across as more of a thoughtless hedonist than a calculating philanderer. Somewhat stolid in demeanour, with an almost permanent smile, he lacks the hauteur of the aristocrat. He dances well enough and partners considerately, simply a foil for the ballerina, a cipher in the drama.

Among the supporting cast Fabian Reimair was a believable Hilarion, wracked with remorse because of his fatal jealousy. Venus Villa and Juan Rodriguez performed the first act Peasant pas de deux with smooth precision, while Chantel Roulston was a splendid Queen of the Wilis. Her second act opening solo with its many bourrées, those rapid tiny steps on pointe that give the impression of floating over the surface of the stage, was exquisitely executed.

Giselle is presented with a short prelude, Men Y Men, choreographed by company director Wayne Eagling to music by Rachmaninov.

Showing off the technical abilities of eight of the company's leading men, jumping, spinning, lifting, it is both impressive and entertaining.

My only quibble is that, bare-chested and in black tights against a black backcloth, sometimes makes the men look like legless torsos.

Edward Thorpe

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