HOTA (Home of the Arts)
The weather was perfect for the opening night of Queensland Ballet’s (QB) Giselle at the HOTA open-air theatre. Set against the glittering Surfers Paradise skyline, this relatively new venue, which is a welcome addition to the Gold Coast’s performing arts scene, positively dazzled in the balmy Spring evening.
It was quite a coup for QB to gather together the resources to stage this ballet at short notice, a testament to the doggedness of the company since day one of the restrictions. Giselle was therefore the first full length ballet to be staged in Queensland (if not nationally) since March.
This production, produced and staged by Ai-Gul Gaisina, was last performed as part of Li Cunxin’s inaugural QB season in 2013. Gaisina’s version follows tradition with a strong adherence to the Romantic style. Richly embellished by the set and costume designs of Peter Cazalet and enlivened by the atmospheric lighting design of Ben Hughes, it is a visually striking production.
Of the three principal casts, Yanela Piñera and Victor Estévez danced the roles of Giselle and Albrecht on opening night. Piñera was a charming but innocent Giselle, dramatically convincing and also technically faultless. As the spirit of Giselle in Act 2, she embodied otherworldliness.
There is no definitive way to portray Albrecht, but it wasn’t quite clear in Act 1 whether Estévez had the nobleman as an idle flirt, a cad, or truly in love with Giselle. Nevertheless, Albrecht’s humility and remorse were palpable in Act 2 as he faced the prospect of dying at the hands of the Wilis. And Estevez is always easy to watch, having a princely demeanour, with lovely line and ballon.
Camillo Ramos (Hilarion) and Janette Mulligan (Berthe) both added dramatic gravitas to the ballet. Ramos, with strong clean jumps, was particularly credible in the second act, while Mulligan anchored the first act with a finely nuanced interpretation of Giselle’s mother.
Gaisina has preserved the classical mime sequences, which are beautifully drawn by Mulligan in particular, and clearly advance the story. The usual peasant pas de deux is now a neatly executed pas de huit, a logical transition, and performed with energy and precision by all eight dancers.
Across the three scheduled performances, some roles were allocated to dancers below the principal rank, which is always a treat. First artist, Serena Green, as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, showed beautifully fluid ports de bras and épaulement as well as soaring elevation, in a more subtle interpretation, which had less of the malice usually associated with the role.
This was a solid performance from the whole company, the female corps particularly splendid with precision in the second act. It has been a difficult year for dancers trying to navigate restrictions while maintaining condition, therefore all credit should go to Queensland Ballet for pulling off this short season.
As a footnote, it seems that HOTA could host further QB seasons, which would be wonderful for Gold Coast audiences. However, consideration should first be given to the poor sight lines from A reserve seating, which combined with a bank of footlights, rendered supporting feet mostly invisible.
– DENISE RICHARDSON