By Christopher Heide
For its all-important season finale, the Pacific Northwest Ballet embarked on an immaculate return to original form in their first ever rendition of Giselle. As with all great season finales, Giselle managed to excite, enthrall and beautifully entertain its audience. This finale repertoire notably featured the final performances at PNB for several of its veteran players. Overall, Giselle was impeccable executed and the perfect ending to an already stellar season.
Remarkably, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s season finale production of Giselle marks a world premiere staging by Artistic Director Peter Boal, as well as the first time an American ballet company has revived a classic based on original material researched by Stepanov notation expert Doug Fullington in collaboration with leading Giselle scholar Marian Smith.
Since its Paris premiere in 1841, Giselle has become one of the most popular ballets of all time and is considered ballet’s great tragedy. A masterpiece of the Romantic era, Giselle tells the story of a young peasant girl seduced and betrayed by a nobleman. Dying of a broken heart, Giselle joins the ranks of the supernatural Wilis, women scorned before their wedding day and doomed to take their revenge for eternity.”
In a season packed with numerous hits, it was a bit of a gamble to stage a never-done-before ballet. PNB could have easily performed one of its fallback, already established repertoire. However, an outstandingly strong season is never accomplished without taking great artistic risk.
“We are very excited to be producing this iconic ballet which has never before been in PNB’s repertory,” said Mr. Boal. “It has been fascinating for all of us to explore this timeless classic using sources closely tied to the original production. The studio experience has been fascinating. I look forward with great anticipation to bringing this unique production of Giselle to our audiences.”
As always, the overall choreography and staging of the show was expertly executed. However, Giselle’s staging stayed more true to the original than other reps this season, relying heavily on pantomime to propel the story forward. This did tone down the typically dark, adult feel that most PNB shows have. The downside to this is that the darker nature of PNB reps is what sets it apart from other notable ballet companies. Essentially, the company forced itself outside of its own creative box and the resulting payoff was huge.
The individual performances were also as strong as always. Interestingly, this production relied heavily on solo performances, during which the other dancers “acted” and “pantomimed” in the background. This allowed the dancers individual talents to be showcased, but PNB is at its best when it forces its entire troupe of dancers to brilliantly execute elaborate, complex choreography. As expected, Carla Körbes’ performance as the titular role, Giselle, was stunning. She managed to be both haunting and enchanting at the same time, which greatly enhanced the ethereal feel of the production. The show also featured Barry Kerollis, a longtime fan favorite, who will be leaving PNB for Ballet X after his final performances in Giselle.
As far as season finales go, Giselle stacks up well against its own. This rep exemplifies a truly outstanding season from an already iconic ballet company. In other words, an iconic ballet performed by an iconic company. PNB has truly achieved an icon status that radiates throughout all of Seattle. If this finale is any indication of things to come, I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire next season sold out.