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Eugene Ballet Company's Giselle, Oct 30

Featuring haunting music by Adolphe Adam, and original staging by Louis Godfrey after Marius Petipa, Eugene Ballet’s Giselle stands shoulder to shoulder with any production I’ve seen.

            Set against the backdrop of autumnal, pastoral repose - the harvest is finally in, the latest vintage is ready to be poured, the Rhineland has never looked prettier than it does this fall - Giselle plumbs this bucolic moment for all its gothic glory. Giselle is a ghost story, after all. Boo!

            In the title role, dancer Yoshie Oshima is exquisite, possessing an effortless quality, like spun sugar, she dances with lightness and grace. But underpinning her work is a steel cage of emotion, as Oshima delves fully into the character’s transformative emotional range, from giddy peasant girl, to jilted girlfriend, to ultimate redeemer. Oshima finds the perfect, compelling balance for the role.

            Hirofumi Kitazume, as Giselle’s beloved Count Albrecht, is equally riveting. He moves like a coiled spring, synaptic and powerful, packing tremendous force, and yet he also possesses a nuanced tenderness, and an easy, approachable manner. These roles demand acting, as well as dance, and could easy tip over into the maudlin. But Kitazume never indulges in such frivolity, instead displaying genuine feelings: Ardor, shock, grief and fear. He carries the narrative for the audience, from inciting incident, to the last sad moments. (Newsflash: It’s a tragedy.)

            Reed Souther as Hilarion, Albrecht’s counterpart and another of Giselle’s suitors, also anchors the production. He has an earthier quality to his work, a grounded, sensible approach that offers an alternative to the flashy Albrecht. Spoiler alert: Things don’t end well for him, and throughout, Souther astonishes with his physical conviction and emotional conveyance.

            As a whole, this ballet really shows off Toni Pimble’s pitch-perfect musicality, and the ensemble’s flawless timing. Throughout, there’s little for the audience to do but sit back, relax, and take this mesmerizing journey. Pimble’s approach is precise, but always humane. Somehow, she never loses sight of the relational storytelling the dance is meant to convey, even as she dishes out technique that shines.

            The corps in Act One explores pleasing configurations and the geometric shapes, that harken back to the simpler time, and perhaps its folk dances, that this romantic ballet epitomizes. The pas de quatre towards the end of Act One exemplifies the versatility and strength of the dancers, with Victoria Harvey, Suzanne Haag, Mark Tucker and Colton West, all turning in terrific performances.

            And Act Two is all about the ladies: Danielle Tolmie as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, sets a gold standard for the corps, dancing with ferocity and a blithe fragility. Tolmie is a wonder, almost weightless, her technique extraordinary, and the faceless, blank stares of the Wilis that surround her create a sensation of coolness and reproach.  Has your man done you wrong? The ultimate squad, these punishing gals have your back. (Just wait until dark.)

            Costumes by Amy Panganiban and sets by Russell Coburn, lend magic, transporting the viewer from the warmth and conviviality of a Bruegel painting, to the cold, clear twilight of lost love.

            Happy Halloween.