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Moscow Festival Ballet returns to UConn with 'Giselle'

By Alexandra Bell
On March 28, 2014

  • A ballerina from the Moscow Festival Ballet dances onstage at the Jorgensen as part of the company’s performance of “Giselle.”. JON KULAKOFSKY/The Daily Campus

UConn is a place where many art forms are given an opportunity to thrive. The theatre, music, painting and sculpting programs, among others, give students opportunities to paint with all the colors of the wind, so to speak. However, dance is one field where the university is grievously lacking. It was therefore an incredible treat, to finally have the option of exposing ourselves to not only ballet, but ballet in its most refined and classical setting. This option came Thursday night, in the form of the Moscow Festival Ballet's rendition of Giselle.
Giselle, choreographed by Marius Petipa and first performed in 1841, is what is commonly known as a classical "white" ballet, due to the ethereal, white and otherworldly nature of the second act. The ballet is considered classical because it was one of the first full-length pieces to be created for the art form. The piece usually requires months of preparation and a high level of technical skill on the part of each of the many dancers involved. The Moscow Festival Ballet's production last night received mixed reviews from audience members.
In the first act, a handsome Count, disguised as a fellow country-dweller, woos an innocent young peasant girl named Giselle. She naively accepts his marriage offer, only to have her heart shattered when both his true identity and his royal fiancé are revealed to her. In the act's last moments, her grief has driven her completely mad. Her heart gives out completely and she dies in the arms of her mother. Unfortunately, the costumes, spacing, musicality and acting of this production's first act were too incohesive to get the storyline across, and too devoid of feeling to hold much of the audience's attention. Sixth-semester theatre major Thamiris Esteves called the first half "visually and emotionally disinteresting." Her friend Fiona Shaw-Munford, also a 6th-semester theatre major, agreed, adding that "the overly vibrant costume colors also added to the lack of fluidity." Overall, the first half of the production left little more than a sense of confusion.
Luckily, however, the second act saved the day. As the lights dimmed, the velvet curtains opened to reveal a scene of fragile gothic beauty. The empty stage was filled with a soft and ghoulish blue light, which was magnified by swirling white fog. The fog was stirred by the ethereal Wilis, or vengeful ghosts of brides who had died before their wedding days. Their white tulle skirts seemed to float about them like clouds as they danced with determined grace and fury. They were flawlessly synchronized as they danced a doomed hunter to his death for having been rash enough to intrude upon their place of eternal restlessness.
This production's Giselle as a Wili was far superior to her performance as a living peasant girl. Her acting was heartbreaking as she bravely defended her beloved Count Albrecht from the cruel and cold hearted Myrthe, queen of the Wilis. The emotional connection between the two leading characters was thin to nonexistent. However, Giselle managed to project her determination to save Albrecht's life, as she continually prodded him to keep dancing till dawn, when the light would destroy the queen's power over him.
As 4th-semester journalism student and Daily Campus writer Kristi Allen said, "this second half of the Moscow Festival Ballet's Giselle succeeded as a beautiful and soulful rendition."
The production started out slow, but by the end the audience was completely captivated. As the sun rose Giselle and Albrecht drifted apart, never to see each other again. The grateful Count placed his hand over his heart and bowed to his beloved's grave, the curtains closed and the stage fell silent. The audience clapped with wild enthusiasm.

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