COSTA MESA — A second set of principals could not entirely energize the Australian Ballet's production of "Giselle" Wednesday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. But at least the new dancers made Act II somewhat eventful and interesting.
Fiona Tonkin brought wide-eyed naivete to Giselle, registering emotions broadly on her face. But she was so self-effacing and childlike that one could hardly credit Albrecht's interest in her. Her dancing, despite explosive, fast turns and spongy pointe work, remained curiously earthbound. But her mad scene included such arresting moments as her flinching from unseen ghosts and her struggling at the deadly coldness creeping over her.
After a rough start in the unsupported balances of the adagio in the second act, she revealed greater control and security, and danced with more lyric vulnerability and pathos.
Steven Heathcote as her Albrecht began as a standard, smug playboy, impatiently, hotly attentive to her. He introduced a nice character touch, however, with his look of aristocratic disdain as Giselle's mother mimed her dream of Giselle becoming a Wili. Ah, the benighted superstitions of the peasants. Unfortunately, his dancing here frequently lacked finish and carry-through of impulse.
But in Act II, he earned his noble stature, emerging from a kind of demented, insulated grief to commitment to Giselle. Similarly, his dancing evidenced greater amplitude and strength, and he ended his trials with the Wilis with an extraordinary series of high-bounding leg beats.
As Myrta, Queen of the Wilis, Jayne Beddoe made an impressive entrance, with glittering, skimming steps, but she may have been thrown off by the person in an upper balcony who could not muffle a disruptive sneeze that sent laughs through
the audience. Her second crossing the stage looked less seamless and secure, and her extended balances became shaky and effortful. Still, she brought commanding, fierce attack to the role.
In Act I, Stephen Morgante had made an intense, almost obsessive Hilarion. Lisa Bolte danced with careful, statuesque placement in the Peasant pas de deux. Campbell McKenzie offered her shaky partnering, but in his variation displayed springy leaps and clean beats.
Stephen Baynes' "Catalyst," previously reviewed, completed the program. John Lanchbery again conducted the Pacific Symphony.
The Australian Ballet performs through Sunday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. At 8 tonight, "Giselle" and "Catalyst." Tickets: $14 to $47. Information: (714) 556-2787.