Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Giselle at the San Francisco Ballet

Now that the next@90 festival of nine new ballets has wrapped up, the San Francisco Ballet has continued its season with Giselle, the oldest (1841) and one of the most popular story ballets ever created, with music by the French composer Adolphe Adam. It's one of outgoing Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson's better productions, dating from 1999, and it's held up well. I saw it once years ago and my only memory was boring peasant dances in the first half and exciting ghost dances in the second. (Production photos by Lindsay Thomas)
There are four different casts dancing over the course of this week's performances and the Chronicle's dance critic, Rachel Howard, reviewed three of them over the weekend, finding something to praise in all of them (click here). We saw the opening night duo, Aaron Robison as the caddish aristocrat Albrecht posing as a peasant who breaks the heart of the sensitive peasant girl Giselle, danced by Sasha de Sola. They are both terrific dancers, and Robison's aristocratic reserve worked well with De Sola's impetuous, love-besotted teenager.
When it is revealed by the jealous character of Hyperion that her boyfriend is an aristocrat who is already engaged to another, poor Giselle goes mad and either stabs herself with a sword or dies of heartbreak, it was not quite clear. De Sola was magnificently crazed.
Also magnificent was Nikisha Fogo as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis (center), who leads an army of vengeful female ghosts who have died of heartbreak and are out to return the favor on foolish men who venture into the forest at night.
Wili novitiate Giselle does everything she can to help save Albrecht from being forced to dance to death by Myrtha. This was where Robison came into his own, jumping into the air while dancing frenetic, near-impossible steps with a look of terror on his face. It's not made particularly clear whether he survives or not, but supposedly Giselle's intervention and the appearance of the morning sun eventually saves his life.
It was all quite wonderful, and fun to watch corps member Nathaniel Pemez (above left) make a splash in a major role as the jealous Hyperion. He seemed so warm and sexy that you wanted to cry out, "Get together with Hyperion, Giselle, the other guy's no good."

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