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PNB’s Giselle Continues to Thrill in Week #2

PNB’s Giselle Continues to Thrill in Week #2
Written by Rosie Gaynor
I’ve been gorging myself on the reviews of Giselle Week #1, as I haven’t been able to get to McCaw Hall to see this favorite ballet of mine. Until last Friday, the second week. What I had read coincided with what I saw onstage. Pacific Northwest Ballet did a lovely job.
First mention must go to the women’s corps, which has been struggling for a few years to reclaim their former status as a group of perfectly lined-up individuals who can, when called upon, dance togetherwith a uniform style, mood, and grace. In the June 10 and June 11 (matinee) performances of Giselle, these women were wonderful. Quirks and swoops have been smoothed out; chins did not jut; heads did not push forward; lines were straight. Most importantly, these women moved with each other. So much was right that the occasional blip didn’t even register. Even the iconic Act II series of unison hops in arabesque looked beautiful (especially on Saturday): back legs impossibly at the same height, criss-crossing lines straight. How unfair that this ridiculous perfection is the expected minimum from the corps. And how wonderful to see it! A special call out for Liora Reshef, whose beautiful arms and quiet grace are so perfectly suited to this ballet.
And the male corps? We see them a bit in Act I. And in Act II, they have some fun moments. But this ballet is not really about them. So it goes. You win some, you lose some.
For the principal roles in Giselle, PNB had four casts over the two weeks of performances. One of the down-sides of casting so broadly is that those in lead roles only get to dance them two times, which can’t be satisfying for the dancers. It also stunts potential growth, as dancers learn so much in performance. However, quadruple casting also means that more dancers get a chance at the prime parts and that the audience gets to see multiple interpretations (emotional and physical) of the same role. It can be a good trade-off. I’d hate to have to be the one who chooses between depth and breadth.
I wish I could have seen all four casts, but I’m happy to have seen two at least. I’m guessing I’m not the only double-dipper: PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal mentioned that the company made its single-ticket sales goal about an hour before the June 11 matinee.
Kaori Nakamura, Lucien Postlewaite, and Jerome Tisserand danced the triangle of lovers on June 10. Even from the middle of the first tier where I was sitting, their emotions read clearly. Their dancing was superlative. Maria Chapman was their implacable, ethereal Queen of the Wilis, her tiny, near-seamless bourrées allowing her to skim across the stage. Rachel Foster and Benjamin Griffiths danced the Peasant Pas de Deux: precise and clean, their technique so beautiful to watch. It was sad to see the departing Chalnessa Eames and Stacy Lowenberg in character roles; in spite of the fact that they’re both superb actresses and so lent a great deal extra to the story, I would rather have seen them dance, given that it was one of our last chances to do so.
Lesley Rausch, Batkhurel Bold, and Jeffrey Stanton danced the lovers for the June 11 matinee. My seat was much closer to the stage, so I had a chance to really see the effects of  Rausch and Bold’s efforts to express with the face (as opposed to only with the body). In this performance, Bold’s face was mobile, conveying believable emotions, some of them complex. We don’t often see smiles from this dancer (I remember the first I saw, still, in In the Upper Room with Carrie Imler), but they’re contagious. And Rausch is becoming the kind of warm-blooded dancer who can make you cry. In the second act she seemed to float; who needs those old-fashioned fly wires anyway? The powerful Bold mentioned in the post-show talk that this was some of the hardest dancing he has ever done; I wasn’t able to tell, as he seemed to have no trouble hanging in the air. Stanton’s performance made me hope, once again, that he plans to do some musical theater after he leaves PNB this season, as his acting, too, was effective. Lindsi Dec was their stern, cruel, beautiful Queen of the Wilis. Reshef and Tisserand danced the Peasant Pas; she shy and sunny, he enjoying the difficult jumps, both correct and clean. 
That’s it for PNB this season. Or, nearly. On June 18 they have their school performance and NEXT STEP, which presents works choreographed on PNB School’s students by Andrew Bartee, Kiyon Gaines, Barry Kerollis, Margaret Mullin, Seth Orza, Sean Rollofson, Price Suddarth, and Ezra Thomson. For more information, visit