The first ever live-stream event from the Guggenheim’s Works & Process was a huge success. In addition to the 285 people sitting in the theater at the Guggenheim Museum, an average of 360 or so watched the live stream online over the course of the 1-1/3 hour event. The online counter at the bottom of the screen showed that while a few people did drop off the connection during the course of the evening, they were replaced by others, which means that even more people than the 360 average tuned in at one point or another to view what was going on. Congrats to the Gugg for more than doubling the attendance via the internet. Here’s hoping that the live-stream will become an integral part of the W&P programs. With a little more advance marketing, they could have thousands upon thousands of viewers at each event.
Tonight’s program was Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Peter Boal discussing his staging of Giselle based on research of the Stepanov notations completed by scholars Doug Fullington and Marian Smith. In preparation of his staging, Boal also watched videos of Giselle by the Royal Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet. However, neither Boal nor Fullington nor Smith nor any of the dancers brought with them this evening has performing experience in Giselle. Any mention of that deficiency was avoided during the evening.
The good news is that the Seattle region will get to see a Giselle. The other good news is that PNB has another five months to turn its efforts into a passable end-product. But it will take work. And Peter Boal cannot do this by himself. If he digs his heels in and refuses to ask for the assistance from those who have actual experience with Giselle, the Seattle audience may not be wise to it. General ballet audiences respond more positively to story ballets than to abstract ballets, and the people in Seattle will love whatever lands on stage as Giselle, regardless of how it stacks up against the other Giselles in the world. Basically, the ballet is so good in any form that first-time goers will not know what they are missing.
When they see Albrecht and Hilarion flapping their arms with every entrechat six or brise, they won’t know it shouldn’t be that way. When they see the girl in the peasant pas de deux pumping her wrists, they won’t know it shouldn’t be that way. When they see Myrta stiffly moving from side to side while smiling at the audience, they won’t know it shouldn’t be that way. When they see Giselle and Albrecht anticipating every mime move of the other’s, they won’t know it shouldn’t be that way. When they see Giselle’s mother, Berthe, in pointe shoes, standing in the perfect B+ position or a perfect tendu stretched to the back, they won’t know it shouldn’t be that way. When they see the amateurish and uncommited mime, they won’t know it shouldn’t be that way. An audience that is accustomed to seeing abstract ballets of only steps will be absolutely blown away when this ballet lands on stage in Seattle. But when one has a talent like Carla Korbes at his disposal, why wouldn’t one want to give her the greatest opportunity to develop a memorable Giselle by exposing her to the coaching expertise of one or more of the great, great Giselles who still lives? Setting steps is not the same as coaching. As Fullington acknowledged, the notations discovered said little about the head, torso, and arms. Where will that information come from for these dancers?
It’s not clear why Peter Boal decided to bring this particular event to New York, which sees spectacular performances of Giselle on an almost annual basis. Maybe it was to show that his company has grown well beyond the mediocre Balanchine franchise that it once was. Let’s hope that it has. Let’s also hope that Boal is not too proud to reach out to those around the world who can truly help him pull his company forward with this endeavor. We’re all rooting for him. We really are.