His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth
Reviewed May 13
With 2021 marking 180 years since Giselle was first performed in Paris in 1841, it is fitting that the West Australian Ballet returns its production of Giselle to the stage. Divided over two acts and set to the musical score of Adolphe Adam, this version was created in 2014 by Aurélien Scannella and Sandy Delasalle Scannella (the company's Artistic Director and Principal Rehearsal Director and Artistic Associate respectively), after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot.
The performance begins by the curtain lifting to reveal the stage encased in forest greenery with a backdrop radiating pink sunset hues. Peter Cazalet’s set design is truly breathtaking and establishes from the beginning that the production will be of exceptional quality.
The first act is upbeat and delightful as it follows Giselle (Dayana Hardy Acuna) falling in love with Albrecht (Oscar Valdes), with the support of her fellow cheery peasant neighbours. Acuna as Giselle is sunshine in human form as she portrays the youthful and innocent character. While Acuna boasts elegant lines and carries herself gracefully, the real show stealers of this act are Candice Adea and Julio Blanes in the Peasant pas de deux. The control in Adea’s pirouettes, alongside Blanes's impeccable execution of the batterie, tours en l'air and fouettés, granted the pair several rounds of applause. Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht’s rival, Hilarion, is also particularly noteworthy, not only for his exquisite technique and elevation, but also for his animation and humour (which elicited several chuckles from the audience).
In the second act, Acuna portrays a deflated and melancholy Giselle (demonstrating her remarkable range in characterisation) as she joins the ghostly Wilis. Even with the sombre theme of the second act, Acuna remains a joy to watch as she executes the choreography, notably with several holds in arabesque, with ease.
Valdes, too, demonstrates great emotional range. While initially portraying Albrecht with arrogance and charm in the first act, his movement and demeanour in the second act is both saddening and moving. His abandon and control in his portrayal of Albrecht being tormented by the Wilis is flawless, not to mention his polished partnering of Acuna, which makes her look ghost-like.
While the soloists throughout the performance are each uniquely charming, the scenes involving the entire ensemble are the most captivating. The impeccable timing and synchronicity of the ensemble is near hypnotising.
This is especially true for the second act, where the Wilis move in perfect, clone-like unison, with their eyes cast downwards. Although the choreography poses the challenge of many transitions between adage and allegro, the dancers' lines remain perfectly placed; it is a subtly powerful performance.
Cazalet's costume design, like the set, is impressive. Both the female peasants in Act I and the Wilis in Act II wear detailed and traditional romantic tutus, with the peasants’ costuming layered with vests and ruffles. The lighting by Jon Buswell complements the stark contrasts in the atmosphere throughout the performance; the brightly lit stage in the first act denotes warmth and safety, whereas the dark shadows cast in the second act stir fear.
While Giselle was originally created in a bygone era, the themes presented in the storyline are timeless. There is something especially poignant about this generation of dancers, particularly female dancers, depicting a story of heartache, anger and forgiveness. This version of Giselle showcases both demanding choreography and storytelling equally. The WA Ballet has done an exceptional job in retaining the spirit and life of this iconic piece.
- ALANA KILDEA