The West

Giselle a triumph
Daniel Roberts and dancers of WA Ballet. Picture: Ashley de Prazer

Waiting in the theatre foyer for Giselle to commence on Saturday night, I was enchanted by a young theatre-goer who had augmented her ballet frock with a tiara and, less traditionally, flashing sneakers.

Giselle isn't usually considered a children's ballet, thanks to its rather morbid storyline, which sees the ballet's heroine dead by the end of Act I. In other respects, though, Giselle is well-suited to younger viewers - not unfeasibly long or complex, with plenty of tutu action. On this occasion, Brooke Widdison-Jacobs, as Giselle, had a touch of Disney heroine sweetness as she fell in love.

Choreographed by WAB's husband and wife team, artistic director Aurelien Scannella and ballet mistress Sandy Delasalle, this version of Giselle follows the original 1841 story line, in which villager Giselle falls in love with Prince Albrecht, disguised as a peasant. When she discovers he is engaged to another, Giselle dies of a broken heart and becomes one of the wilis, the ghosts of young women who have been spurned by their lovers.

Scannella and Delasalle's choreography doesn't stray far from tradition either - numerous recognisable choreographic motifs remain. The costumes and sets are appropriate if unremarkable (aside from what appears to be a giant croissant atop Giselle's mother's head).

Nonetheless, there is a freshness to this interpretation - Giselle and Albrecht's body language has a particular warmth, while a canine cameo almost steals the show.

Widdison-Jacobs' Giselle embodied innocence in love. Her interpretation of the famous death scene was sensitive and moving. Her highlight, though, came in Act II, in her pas de deux with Albrecht. From the moment she extended her leg in the opening developpe a la seconde, she demonstrated absolute control over the difficult adagio.

Her Albrecht, Matthew Lehmann, is proving himself to be a versatile leading man. Recalling his performance as the arrogant Onegin, his ability to be different types of charming is noteworthy.

He played Albrecht as charismatic but unthinking, thoughtless yet forgivable. While towards the end it was sometimes hard to tell if his exhaustion was acted or actual, he pulled off some show-stopper moments, in particular the challenging entrechat series.

Mention must also be made of Daniel Roberts as Hilarion, whose advances Giselle has rejected. His heartfelt remorse for his role in Giselle's demise unexpectedly demanded one's sympathies. Physically he is hitting his straps too - those long limbs becoming increasingly graceful. He's definitely one to watch.

When WAB last presented Giselle in 2009 it had been some time since the company had tackled a traditional story ballet and the lack of experience was evident.

This performance had a few weak moments - an over-fished point among the wilis' arabesques, occasional sloppy feet amongst the corps - but, nonetheless, it was a pleasure to be able to compare the two productions and reflect on how much our State flagship ballet company has grown and developed in five years. Last but never least, WA Symphony Orchestra's accompaniment was a treat, as always.

The West Australian

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