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Mikhailovsky Ballet


by Jessica Wilson

March 26, 2013 -- London Coliseum, London, UK

The Mikhailovsky Ballet’s “Giselle” saw Natalia Osipova create a truly succinct character, which was both of childlike innocence and learned power simultaneously. The split of Giselle’s character across the two acts, as young villager and then as the newest recruit of the Wilis, clearly demonstrates the shift in her emotional capability, and was shown wonderfully through Osipova’s technique too.

Act I, with Osipova’s pixie-looking expressive face and beautifully buoyant feet was joyous. She was bouncy and full of joie de vivre as she span round the stage, utilising it in a completely different way to the rest of the cast. The lightness and suspension of her steps, her wonderfully expressive face, supple feet and elastic legs, only sought to further confirm Giselle’s passion for life and dance through. Her appearance, alongside Ivan Vasiliev was met with rapturous applause, later serving up secure and precise solos from the cast, stealing nanoseconds from the music and ultimately stretching the sustainment in the posés and batterie. Vasiliev’s Albrecht was filled every inch with confident bravura, foolish alongside his deft footwork and grand, powerful expansion, his status and social position spelt out before the naive Giselle.

A golden autumnal set contained the cast in their happiness, giving way to the pathetic fallacy of the mists descending in Act II. The laughs drawn from the audience in Act I in Albrecht’s profession of love for Giselle dissolved as her pixie face became suddenly gaunt when Albrecht’s true identity and fiancée were revealed. The corps de ballet was quiet and composed in manner, subtly adding to the reactions of the leads, particularly in Giselle’s mad dance in which Osipova gave full reign to her violent and panic-stricken final pleas. Despite their rather minimal input to these scenes, the corps’ emotional was in no way decreased. Anna Novosyolova, playing Giselle’s mother, added much to Osipova’s manic desperation, with her frustrations, inherent love for her daughter and despair immediately readable in singular movement choices.

Despite later appearing slightly mechanical in her movements in comparison to Osipova, Ekaterina Borchenko’s Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, glided round the stage in her bourées like an insect on the lake behind, employing extreme precision in the shifts between her travelling and poses. The 24 Wilis moved in near-perfect unison as virgin brides, completing lines of arabesques and static transitions whilst waiting for their newest recruit. Rightly so, the corps held a distinctly inhuman quality as they stood before Borchenko’s solos and the Wilis’ variations by Asthik Ogannesian and Valeria Zapasnikova, all completed with accuracy and portrayal of mystery.

Giselle’s tragedy was in no way hindered by any lack of or decrease in performance. Osipova continued to breathe life into the heroine’s death, with continued effortless buoyancy. She was ironically delightful in her grief, the fantastic speed and height of her jumps making the full transition to the ethereal Wili appropriately otherworldly. Giselle’s Act II solo ahead of the final pas de deux drew shouts and cheers from the audience, her mature interpretation taking the character past an ensnaring of Albrecht before the dawn and coupling it with a desire to spare him. Oblivious in Giselle’s circling of Albrecht, Osipova created a beautifully poignant longing, with Vasiliev’s Albrecht unable to provide, and Giselle eventually retreating upstage.

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