For the first few minutes last night, Haglund thought that perhaps we were coming out of the starting gate with the mad scene. Giselle scrunched up her face, whined and sniveled uncontrollably, went back and forth between broadly smiling and terribly worried, held herself with rounded shoulders and was, in a nutshell, a very stressed out teenager. But then the dancing began.
Natalia Osipova made her ABT debut as Giselle with David Hallberg's newly-minted Albrecht last night to a packed house that even included Billy Elliot. Haglund went to the theater expecting to see Osipova's already legendary jumps, but he was unprepared for the unusual Act I interpretation of Giselle as helpless and almost infantile. But there's plenty of room for this and many other interpretations, especially when they are accompanied by blazing technique that is intelligently employed for characterization.
Many dancers build their characters like carpenters, pound pound, bang bang. A few carve out their characters like artistic cabinetmakers. Natalia is most certainly a cabinetmaker with every tool bit at her disposal. You may not necessarily like some of the ornateness of the artistry, but you cannot disagree that it is unique, fully thought out, and, yes, it grows on you the more you look at it.
Giselle's Act II awakening spin was the wildest, most explosive tornadic spin that Haglund has ever seen or ever wants to see. Giselle's skirt became a blur like in some Fabrizio Ferri photo. The whole variation was riveting from start to finish. The whole Act II was riveting from start to finish.
And Hallberg! – Never did Haglund expect in a million years this kind of Albrecht to come pouring out of David on what was merely his third performance in the role. Kudos to him and to ABT for the way in which they accommodated Osipova by deferring to her Bolshoi version of the choreography in many, many instances. It made the whole evening that more special.
Hallberg painted the character of Albrecht with huge, emotional, sweeping strokes unlike what we have ever seen from him. The depth of his torment over Giselle's death and the magnitude of his sadness while at her grave was startling. Such a fine performance.
Veronika Part contributed mightily as Myrta with her glorious beauty and expansive leaps.
Jared Matthews as Hilarion was perhaps a bit overwhelmed by what was going on around him. Not a bad performance. But not any where close to what Isaac Stappas accomplishes each time in the role. Jared blew the timing when pointing a maddening Giselle to her mother - probably out of excitement. His Act II variations were well danced but unremarkable in their drama.
The Peasant PdD was acceptable. Hee Seo and Blaine Hoven managed everything securely. His work at the gym is starting to take its toll on his overall line and aesthetic. He still employs flowery arms and wrists, and last night his pointer finger was way out of control. Other than those complaints, Haglund was thrilled to see his gorgeous jumps, sunny smile, articulate feet and sensitive partnering of Hee Seo. Blaine is another favorite who needs a good shove in the right direction before he stumbles off the beaten path to obscurity.
The corps has been sensational most of the week. There has been so much to talk about with regard to principal performances that not enough has been said about the corps. Standouts this week included Sean Stewart, Roman Zhurbin, Eric Tamm, Grant DeLong, Joe Phillips, Julio Bragado-Young, Isabella Boylston, Isadora Loyola, Simone Messmer, Leann Underwood, Renata Pavam, Katherine Williams and the stunning-all-season Luciana Paris.
Haglund only attended six of the eight Giselles this season, but given the large audiences, he hopes it signals to ABT to bring Giselle back again next year. With so many encouraging new principals and returning favorites it would be such a crime not to cut them loose in this again next year. As the story goes, Yogi was sitting in the clubhouse pouring over his ABT subscription brochure. He pushed his cap back, looked up and said, "An ABT season without Giselle is like a World Series without the Yankees – it ain't official."
This week of Giselles deserves the Haglund's Heel Medal of Honor:
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