American Ballet Theatre

April 26, 1999

American Ballet Theatre:
Seven Faces of Giselle

Metropolitan Opera House

New York, New York

April 26-June 19,1999

Reviewed by Henning Rübsam

Seven ballerinas performed the romantic tale of Giselle; just as individual as the shades of blue for their first-act dress was their palette of characterizations, which ranged from pale to the iridescence of Alessandra Ferri.

A ballerina who is not always secure in her turns, does not have spectacular elevation, and does not even attempt hops on pointe, Ferri was nevertheless the most engaging Giselle, in my view. She gave youthful joy and excitement to the discovery of first love; her acting was informed by felt physicality. Because she never substitutes mime for truth in gesture, the characters around her respond naturally and with clarity. Ferri was matched by her suitor, Julio Bocca. During Act II, they seemed to be dancing as one, her soul moving his body. He pretended that he was sensing her at first by echo only, and, as the night grew darker, he recognized her outline and danced with an almost tangible love. Her balances infused him with strength and he, saved by her forgiveness, greeted dawn earnestly humbled.

Bocca was also paired with Ashley Tuttle on short notice. Under the circumstances, they worked well together. Her dancing was solid, her mad scene fierce.

Jose Manuel Carreño gave a hot-blooded performance as Albrecht, not leaving Giselle’s side after she has died. Carreño loved Giselle and Bathilde. He realized his true feelings for Giselle only when she no longer shared his “I’ve-got-enough-love-to-go-around-for- everybody” approach and died of a broken heart. His Giselles, however, cared more about themselves: Viviana Durante with an unpredictable, hit-and-miss performance; Nina Ananiashvili with a strong second act and graceful lines, but the least convincing, because most demonstrative, mad scene of all.

Julie Kent, who opened the series partnered by Vladimir Malakhov, didn’t connect with him until Act II. Amanda McKerrow took greater risks, and gave a highly individual performance, her second act full of passion and powerful, yet sensitive, dancing. Malakhov’s pliant upper back and clean line made him a second-act Albrecht; his noble bearing in Act I could not convince anyone to believe that he’s a peasant.

Helped by her fine ear and acting skills, Susan Jaffe, ABT’s strongest classical ballerina, adapted beautifully to the Romantic style. Ethan Stiefel, whose partnering is too visible, danced and acted with spectacular verve in Act II, giving Jaffe every reason to forgive him.

For a different view of American Ballet Theatre’s Giselle, see Dance Magazine September 1999, page 88.