Ballet Review: “Giselle” at the Kennedy Center

This past weekend, the Washington Ballet presented “Giselle,” a haunting ballet about the revenge of a jilted lover, at the Kennedy Center.

Giselle, a young country girl, falls in love with Albrecht, a prince, who is unfortunately already engaged. To further complicate things, a local boy is also in love with Giselle. The local boy reveals Albrecht’s identity and after Albrecht chooses his fianc?e over Giselle, Giselle goes crazy and dies.

In the second act, the local boy mourns Giselle at her grave. During his vigil, he is attacked by Wilis (pronounced wil-eez), ghosts of girls left by their lovers before their wedding. The consequence of encountering the Wilis is death from over-dancing. Giselle’s ghost appears, and after killing off the local boy, the Wilis turn their attention to Albrecht. As Albrecht dances toward death, Giselle helps to sustain his life until morning. The Wilis disappear at daylight and Giselle and Albrecht depart to their separate worlds.

The company did a satisfactory job producing this ballet, considering that its repertoire mostly consists of smaller modern-infused ballets, not long full-length story ballets that involve love rhombuses and enchanted animals. But corps didn’t seem quite on the mark at Thursday night’s performance, as they made many coherence errors. Their energy seemed zapped and their movements forced.

Michele Jimenez shined like a jewel as Giselle. Her face lit the stage and her dancing charmed the audience. It’s no question why she was chosen to open the performance weekend. On the other hand, Rasta Thomas, who played Albrecht, lacked the emotional spectrum that Michele portrayed. He had the emotion of a poker face. His feelings were transparent and weak, which undermined his technical brilliance.

The ballet itself is not for beginners, with the first act filled with more mime than dance. The inexperienced viewer might have been lost or bored with the lack of movement typically expected in a ballet. But then again, Washington Ballet is not your typical company – it’s a smaller troupe that produces smaller, more intimate shows and pieces. This particular performance from the company was good, but not great. However, because of talents like Jimenez and others, expectations are still high in the future.

The Washington Ballet’s next production is “The Nutcracker,” with a D.C. twist. It will be at the Warner Theater from Dec. 9 through 26.

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