Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Cuban National Ballet does Giselle (and I see Alicia Alonso in real life!)

Oh my goodness, please forgive my gushing whilst I just repeat my title. I saw Alicia Alonso. Live. On stage. The dancers brought her on at the end. Replete with headscarf and red lipstick. Live. For real. Wow! Wow! Wow!

Now we've got that out of the way with (I kind of feel a little like I would have done had I ever seen Margot Fontein!), I will say, I was also totally blown away by their Giselle. There was so much passion, it was so alive and the dancing so beautiful I don't know where to begin. So I shall begin with the ballet itself. I've never seen Giselle before and I didn't really know what to expect but I shouldn't have worried. The precision and clarity of the dancing didn't detract from the story, and I really felt that as much as they danced the roles, the dancers really acted. Passionately and realistically, with all of their hearts. Sometimes I am wowed by the dancing but I don't always believe the dancer IS the character, but I couldn't fault the dancers' (Annette Delgado and Javier Torres in the lead roles) commitment to character. Their eyes spoke the words they couldn't say, and their bodies pulsed with the rhythm of emotion beyond the tempo of the dance.

Mr Ballerina (as I have been instructed to stop referring to him as my husband (as it makes him sound too old and sensible, apparently) - this will be my new name for him, or rather, Mr. B) said, "It was the most beautiful ballet I've ever seen. Especially the Wilis!" And I have to agree. The whole of the second act was utterly mesmerising, the dancing beautiful and I loved the Wilis too. I thought they moved so seamlessly together, and by turns were both sinister and magical: moving in and out of formation as if controlled by some higher force. It took my breath away..!

My last comment, really, links more to my own experience of ballet. One of the things that I loved most about BNC doing Giselle was that their technique was so clean, so musical and spoke so clearly of the story that they did what many great experts (of anything) are able to do, which is make it look beautifully simple and effortless. It was, perhaps, the first time I have watched a ballet and have been able to identify the steps, how they are put into sequences and how they are danced and feel that I could, with practise, perform the same. Clearly I am completely deluded, as I could never perform with the perfection and precision the BNC did, but it's a nice thought...


  1. very interesting ! I saw the BNC several years ago dancng Giselle and it's been one of my favourite interpretations. I love the arm positions of the Wili's - so much more menacing than any of the UK productions.

    Alicia is a legend - who knows how she carries on ?

    But I have to say that overall, this year, I was very sad for the company. Like some other critics I thought they had gone backwards a great deal since their last visit and I can only hope that they find a way of the stifling situation they find themselves in. It's not just the sets or the costumes that are out of date - you expect that - but the dancing, which is usually so brilliant, just wasn't as bright or as sharp this year. Very sad.

  2. I have never seen them before, so have nothing to compare too. I know the reviews haven't been especially favourable, but they had a very appreciative audience last night, and that seemed like it might have helped them to up their game, perhaps? (Last night of a run in Birmingham, and the atmosphere was great!) Compared to the BRB, in the home of the BRB, there were definitely technical elements that stood out as being antiquated (as you say...) but I don't have previous dancing knowledge of them to say about their prowess. They would certainly have held their own against the BRB though!

    It was such a bonus to see Alicia Alonso. I didn't expect it, so it was doubly great, especially as she seems to be in such frail health now!

  3. Oh, and I had to giggle the first time the Wilis went into their elbow forward menacing chase, but also marvel at the stroke of genius that designed that malevolence!

  4. i've never seen BNC also, but im glad you had such a great experience! giselle is such a fantastic ballet when danced well, especially the effortless grace of the Wili's.

  5. Mr. Ballerina. Hahaha! That's awesome.

    I think every opportunity to watch other dancers perform their art is a gift. So glad you and Mr. B. enjoyed it.