Giselle, Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh Festival
Wednesday 13 August 2008
In Giselle, Nina Ananiashvili's dancing is both powerful and ethereal. As her springy jump takes her high above the stage, the open ease of her torso gives her a weightless quality in the air. Her long arms drift as if carried on a breeze, hands floating from softly held wrists. Every movement flows.
The State Ballet of Georgia, which is making its Festival debut, has a repertory of classics, Russian and Western material, with a Georgian flavour to some of the new work. Ananiashvili's own example is clear in the company style. There's a long-limbed reach to the dancing, the corps showing strict attention to footwork. Jumps are high, if occasionally untidy.
Yet this Giselle takes time to warm up. Alexei Fadeyechev's production of the 1841 classic is straightforward enough, but Viacheslav Okunev's sets are clumsy, while Paul Vidar Saevarang's lighting is murky. The Playhouse, a grim barn of a theatre, does nothing for the atmosphere. The first act suffers most, though Ananiashvili makes a lively heroine. At 45, she has a youthful freshness. Vasil Akhmeteli plays the faithless hero Albrecht. His acting lacks subtlety, but he's a robust dancer and secure partner. The lights are dimmer still in the ghostly second act, but performances brighten. Lali Kandelaki could be more imperious as Myrta, queen of the avenging spirits, but her dancing is clean and light.
Some productions bring the ghostly Giselle on with a special effect, but here Ananiashvili simply steps on stage with such crisp precision that it appears magical. When she raises her arms, in a single long phrase, she seems to draw power up from the earth, breath by breath.
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