From the moment I heard that Paris Opera Ballet was coming to the U.S., I immediately began a daily search for information. The tour is basically three stops – Harris Theater in Chicago, the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and Lincoln Center in New York. I was going to see them – period. PERIOD. Harris Theater was the first to post information regarding tickets. I love Chicago so POB in Chi-town sounded like good times. Package deals went on sale first, so I bought a “French” package that included seeing the Trocks earlier this year and then tickets for both programs. I usually like to see casting for a production and then buy tickets accordingly but casting wasn’t up and for goodness sake, its POB!
I was not to be disappointed. My Giselle was Dorothée Gilbert and my Albrecht was Stéphane Bullion. I’ve long thought Dorothée to be completely lovely and I love Stéphane. Did you know that he is a cancer survivor? Truly, he’s a hero in more ways than one. Hilarion was danced by Vincent Chaillet and Myrtha by Emilie Cozette (isn’t that just the cutest name ever?!).
You might remember that I told you about Harris Theater back in January with my Trocks review so I’ll keep that short and sweet. Back in January I wondered how POB would even fit Giselle on this stage! Harris stage is nice but feels small for a huge company like POB and in truth, it was a tad bit teeny. Some of the diagonals were right up to the end of the stage, they didn’t have to do the “ballet run” off the end of the stage because they pretty much danced right up to the end up of it. Fortunately no one danced right off but there were a couple of close calls, whoa!
The sets were very French fairytale, that is, not Disney fairytale, but a little darker, a little more realistic, and heavier. Everything was quite gorgeous. Dorothée is a wide-eyed doe, lovely and elegant, she brings innocence and happiness to her Act I Giselle. There are glimpses of Elizabeth Platel in her feet and Monique Loudieres in her upper body. You see the proof of traditions of Paris Opera in her dancing. And when she get’s her crazy on, you are simply riveted, unable to take your eyes from her, knowing her fate and absolutely fearing for her.
Stéphane is a truly masculine dancer, capable of both a prince and a villain. There is music in his every movement, his walking is dancing. There is something very minimalist about his dancing that tells the story without ever being overly dramatic or too much in any way, it’s always just enough. His lines are intensely beautiful. Does he love Giselle or is he playing with her heart? He is flirty, then gently loving, he is mortified when Bathilde shows up and devastated in Giselle’s death.
The Wilis… oh, the Wilis!!! So intensely, incredibly beautiful, I had tears in my eyes. It is beyond me to put into words the perfection of the Wilis, the sadness, the anger, the coldness but also the desperation born of heartbreak. The dance of the Wilis was one of the most emotional moments that I have ever experienced in a theater seat. As Giselle dances to protect Albrecht, to save him, to beg for him, to gift him not only with his life but with her forgiveness, dawn breaks and the Wilis depart leaving Albrecht alone, barely alive but knowing what true love really is.