Dance Giselle Royal Ballet, Covent Garden English National Ballet, Coliseum
Friday 05 April 1996
English National Ballet's 1994 production of Giselle updates the action from medieval Ruritania to a luxury hotel in the Tyrol of the Twenties, a development that doesn't have nearly as much impact as you might expect. Apart from the maids' and bellboys' uniforms and Albrecht's arrival in a Silver Ghost Rolls-Royce (which gets a big and very incongruous laugh), the scenario differs little from Mary Skeaping's much-loved earlier version. Friday's Giselle was Josephine Jewkes, the company's only English principal, who danced the first act with an air of anxious foreboding. Some dancers allow their Giselle a little maidenly glee in the pastoral sequences, but Jewkes will have none of it and her unease builds steadily and inexorably to a fine mad scene. Act 2 begins severely overcast by industrial quantities of dry ice. This clears to reveal the avenging tribe of ghostly maidens. The Twenties influence is glimpsed in the wilis' costumes and the traditional colour scheme is ditched in favour of a dingier hue - not so much Brilliant White as Old Bra. The neophyte Giselle comes among them and Jewkes excels here in the adagio passages, which she inhabits with a somnambulistic languor until her body finally dips and folds back down into her early grave.
The Royal Ballet's Sarah Wildor danced Giselle twice at Covent Garden last year. She is dancing it twice this year. If she plays her cards right, she might get a couple of goes in 1997. Despite this, she can give a performance of astonishing power and sensitivity. One shudders to think what she could do with the role if she had more time to work on it. Last year's partner was the posturing and unresponsive Zoltan Solymosi, who has since left the company. His place has been taken by the handsome home-grown Stuart Cassidy, who suited her far better.
Endearing as a kitten, Wildor's Giselle is a child-like creature only truly happy when dancing solo. Her obvious terror of physical contact carries echoes of her fine interpretation of MacMillan's violated virgin in The Invitation. The cloud of corn-silk blonde hair, the bee-stung mouth and trembling lower lip make her appear on the verge of tears at the best of times; when driven mad by the thoughtless betrayal of her aristocratic lover, her misery is shared at the back of the stalls. Her performance in Act 2 was equally successful. Wildor, like Jewkes, manages to combine the stiff technical demands of Giselle's ghostly persona with the ethereally droopy wrists and submissive head so necessary for the successful evocation of the afterlife.
If there is a flaw in her performance, it is in the absence of unalloyed girlish joy in her first act to contrast with the woe of the second. But the decision to present Giselle as a morbidly sensitive and acutely vulnerable individual is sustained with such thoroughness and conviction that one is forced to view the lack of gaiety in the role not as a failing, but as a new and terrible strength.
Arts & Ents blogs
The Full Monty to close in West End after one month despite Olivier nomination
Best films on Netflix: 32 movies that will put an end to your endless scrolling
Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on acting one-handed and why Jaime Lannister is not so bad
Halle Berry's X-Men: Days of Future Past role cut down to one scene
Game of Thrones star Sibel Kekilli on why she wants more male nudity in the show
Ukip and Nigel Farage on course for remarkable victory in European elections
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
Tony Benn was entirely ineffectual - and usually wrong
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
- 1 Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
- 2 Gender-specific books demean all our children. So the Independent on Sunday will no longer review anything marketed to exclude either sex
- 3 Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Did jetliner fly into area controlled by Taliban? Net widens after claims final satellite signal could have been sent from the ground
- 4 Nasa-funded study warns of ‘collapse of civilisation’ in coming decades
- 5 'Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 plane found in Bermuda Triangle!' Viral Facebook links are profiting hackers