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Dance Review

Perm State's 'Giselle' Lacks Credibility


The Perm State Ballet production of "Giselle" badly needs rethinking. From the peas-ants' ridiculously over-rich velvet and chiffon costumes in Act 1 to a staging that makes it look like Hilarion is shooed away by the Wilis instead of murdered in Act 2, all the distortions inflicted on the greatest classic of Romantic ballet should be far beneath Russia's third largest company.

Staged by Nina Fyodorova in 1958 (based on the Kirov Ballet version) and then retouched in the 1970s, the Perm "Giselle" came to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday afternoon in worn, rather cartoony sets, and with an orchestra often thin in tone and extreme in tempo. (Vadim Myunster conducted.)

Defying credibility, Giselle's mother looked half the age of her daughter and the noble hunting party arrived wearing apparel more suitable for a palace ball than a trek in the woods. So much for "Giselle" as a dance drama.

As a company showcase, however, the performance had more to recommend it. Start with Yulia Mashkina's majestic, stellar Myrta and the fine 18-member Wili-corps.

Even when the choreographic text grew crude--as in the curt group semaphores whenever anyone pleaded to the Wilis for mercy--their execution stayed stylish and authoritative.

In the title role, the technically strong Elena Kulagina kept pushing for speed and power, compromising the softness and delicacy of Romantic style and occasionally overextending herself badly (the backward spins just after her entrance in Act 2).

No actress, she adopted masklike expressions throughout the performance and approached the Mad Scene essentially as a series of physical tasks.

Opposite her, Vitaly Poleschuk underdefined his mime and danced bold passages more expertly than intricate ones.

But his faultless partnering ultimately secured the success of the afternoon, making this Giselle and Albrecht more impressive as a team than they ever were individually.

Dmitri Asaulyak emphasized nervous desperation as Hilarion and Galina Dubrovina airy condescension as Bathilde.

Due to Roman Geer's injury, the peasant pas de deux was deleted--but without any announcement.

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