For almost two centuries, “Giselle” was dubbed “the ultimate romantic ballet” and remains today the supreme achievement of The Romantic Era with its fusion of dance and theater. Ballet Theater of Maryland (BTM) captures the authentic feeling of young love, festive dance and haunting beauty in its debut of “Giselle”, directed by Nicole Kelsch after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot and Russian master Marius Petipa, at Maryland Hall through the weekend.
Lauren Martinez… Ballet dancer with a beautiful line and magnificent feet, she brought a particular softness to the role.
“Giselle” has also been nicknamed “Hamlet of Dance”, for her enduring qualities, of course, and because she offers the lead ballerina (Giselle) a dual challenge of dancing and acting. This challenge was thrown at the little ballerina, Lauren Martinez, during the opening night performance of the BTM ballet… and she succeeded. Ballet dancer with a beautiful line and magnificent feet, she brought a particular softness to the role.
The ballet tells the story of a simple peasant woman who goes mad and dies for the love of an aristocrat who cheats on her. In the afterlife, she becomes a Wili, her face covered in a bridal veil, who joins her phantom sisters as they force the men who cheated on them to dance to their death.
In the first act, Martinez first enters as a spirited young Giselle and grazes the floor like a child running on the playground. In the opening show, she didn’t settle for just dancing Giselle; she became Giselle and her acting tenderness matched her dance.
Ryan Massey Count Albrecht) demonstrates this same joy, joining the peasants, a fiery Roman Mykyta (Wilfred) among them. There was chemistry between the two young lovers, especially as Giselle pulls daisies to determine if he likes her or not. Tall and confident, Collen convinces the audience and Giselle to believe that he only likes her, and it shows in their dance.
Meanwhile, his friends gather around them in characterful folk dances – Emily Carey and Isaac Martinez pull off a beautiful technique in the Peasant Pas de Deux. As villainous Hilarion, Mark McCormack’s dramatic skills are superb as he sulks his beloved Giselle who only has eyes for her prince. Everything is joyful and festive in the Rhine village until the arrival of the royal family.
Passion and jealously abound in a fight between men. Albrecht confesses his infidelity – he is engaged to Princess Bathilde, royally played by Madeline Jones, all decked out in silk and jewelry.
Hats off (or should we say crown in this ballet?) To Karissa Kralik, Karen Kralik and Caroline Anderson for the party costumes, and thanks to Aaron Bauer and Manassas Ballet Theater for the sets. Stacie Johnson-Leske kept the lighting straight on target, especially in the cemetery scene where dread prevails.
At the end of the first act, heartbroken, devoid of meaning, the heroine performs the “crazy dance” overwhelmed with grief, which has become the decisive test for the ballet dancers. In this slow solo, Martinez stumbles trembling over the footsteps she and Albrecht had danced together, and after one last frightened run, she dies in the arms of her mother (Catherine Welch).
BTM offers a sublime second act, with the all-female corps de ballet attacking the stage like soldiers in a war. Lindsey Bell plays Myrtha, the all-powerful Queen of the Wilis, whose cold and imperious solo wakes up the ghost maidens and orders their future husbands (who return every evening to lay flowers on their graves) to dance to death. . Bell hypnotizes in her ghostly floats across the stage and makes the Queen of Spirits the third lead role, rather than a supporting role.
In many ways, “Giselle” could be called the first feminist ballet with Myrtha best described as a strong woman who won’t back down when punishing the men who have caused grief. When she lifts the sprig of rosemary (symbol of remembrance), she is firm in her position. Men who have abandoned their future wives must die. Giselle, meanwhile, defends her man to the end and keeps him alive by dancing in his place.
Duration: Two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
The Ballet Theater of Maryland performs “Giselle” at Maryland Hall, 801 Chase St., Annapolis, Saturday October 23 at 7 p.m. and Sunday October 24 at 2 p.m. For more information on BTM performances, call 410- 224- 5644 or visit here.