Friday, May 29, 2015

GISELLE - Revisited - The Australian ballet


Choreography: Petipa, Corelli, Perrot.

Natasha Kusen (Princess Bathilde) - Madeliene Eastoe (Giselle)

 


 

Production: Maina Gielgud
Music: Adolphe Adam
Set and Costume Design: Peter Farmer
Lighting Design: William Akers, reproduced by Francis Croese
Conductor: Nicolette Fraillon
The Canberra Symphony Orchestra
Presented by The Australian Ballet
The Canberra Theatre, Saturday evening 23rd May 2015

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

It was a pity that more Canberra dance students did’nt take advantage of the opportunity to hear The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director, David McAllister, and his conversation with principal dancer Lana Jones prior to Saturday night performance of “Giselle”. It was one of the special events organised by Australian Ballet to co-incide with the “Giselle” performances in Canberra.

Those who did were treated to a fascinating insight into what it takes to become a world-class ballerina.  McAllister’s questions were insightful. Jones’s answers were disarmingly frank and enlightening. With her mother and father present in the audience, Jones talked about her early training in Canberra, her Australian Ballet School experience, her favourite ballet roles and reflected on some of the world-renowned choreographers with whom she had worked. She even admitted to pangs of jealousy when her husband, principal dancer, Daniel Gaudiello, was being a little too convincing in love scenes with other ballerinas.  But perhaps her most telling comment was her response to a question from McAllister about her future ambitions as a dancer. After a long pause Jones revealed that although she was confident in her technique, she was now concentrating on “perfecting the art”.


Madeliene Eastoe 
The truth of that statement sprang to mind while watching Madeleine Eastoe dance her penultimate Giselle later that evening, prior to her pending retirement from dancing. Eastoe’s performance was pure art, and as close to human perfection as one could hope to achieve, especially in the second act where everything seemed to combine to produce a performance that could only be described as sublime.

In this act Eastoe was truly transformed into a weightless, ethereal vision. Completely given over to the role, oblivious of everything except her Albrecht and how she could protect him.  As Albrecht, Kevin Jackson, matched Eastoe’s mood to perfection, partnering with strength and grace while dancing and acting as if nothing else mattered.  Their first lift, when he holds her high above his head, seemed so effortless that it drew spontaneous applause from the spellbound audience.

Madeliene Eastoe - Kevin Jackson 
The Wilis too, commanded by Valerie Tereshchenko’s imperious Myrtha, rose to the occasion, each move and pose perfectly executed, perfectly in tune with the mood of the ballet  and executed with breathtaking precision. Together with Peter Farmer’s atmospheric setting, and William Akers’ magical lighting, the effect created was of watching some gorgeous antique lithograph which had somehow come to life.

Madeliene Eastoe - Kevin Jackson - Artists of the Australian Ballet 
The Canberra Symphony Orchestra also caught the mood, responding to conductor, Nicolette Fraillon’s expressive baton with a superb interpretation of Adam’s romantic score.

Eastoe’s Giselle is the result of a whole career devoted to perfecting every move and nuance of the role, as she demonstrated in Act One, where her mad scene was at times, moving, distressing and terrifying. It seems a tragic fact that, having reached such perfection, the tyranny of age prevents dancers of this calibre from continuing to share their art with audiences.

It was a privilege to have experienced this wonderful performance by Eastoe, so beautifully supported by those artists of the Australian Ballet who shared it with her. Despite having seen many “Giselle’s” over the years, this particular performance will definitely remain a most treasured memory of balletic perfection.

Madeleine Eastoe and Artists of the Australian Ballet 
Personal Post Script: While waiting for the performance to begin, a woman wearing a wreath of white flowers in her long, dark hair caught my eye.  As she removed her overcoat and  took her seat in the front row, I could see she was wearing a tunic and white long sleeved blouse. She was dressed as Giselle. 

After the performance, filing out of the theatre, I found myself opposite her and took the opportunity to compliment her for going to so much trouble with her dressing. She responded by telling me that, she was now 46,  and this was only the second time she had witnessed a live ballet performance, although she had seen many ballets on film.  She added that she was going blind, which was why she had bought a ticket in the front row, and had decided to dress up to make it a really memorable occasion.  She confided that she was so moved by the performance that she was going home to cry some more, before disappearing  into the cold Canberra winter night.  
                                                      All photos by Jeff Busby.
 

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