Either Endearingly Okay or Comically Good

Through the 29th of September, Boston Ballet is showcasing their dancers in a production of Giselle. Choreographed originally in reference to the romantic era by Jean Cooralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa, it’s a lovely ballet that takes audiences through the different stages of falling in love, betrayal, grief, and selflessness. This was my third time seeing it, and Boston Ballet made it as entertaining as ever. 

This adaption was staged by Larissa Ponomarenko, and the application of her work is where you can see the company really soaring. Having danced the title role before in her career, she shows just how connected she is to the character and to telling the story of the ballet. And that’s what it all comes down to: telling the story. 

Pantomime (see more on this here), or, the silent storytelling dancers do with specific movements, was exceptional in this piece. From the neverending minutes of watching Giselle (performed by Viktorina Kapitonova) descend into madness, to the caring touch of her mother (played by Elizabeth Olds, a guest artist to BB), to the coldness of the evil queen (performed by Dawn Atkins) who forces men to dance to their death (Hilarion, specifically, performed by Paul Craig) or to their near death (Count Albrecht, performed by Patrick Yocum), the storytelling practically dripped from the dancers fingertips, and was particularly exceptional in the movements of these female dancers. Which might have been the point. 

Ponomarenko was brought on in continuation of Boston Ballet’s current initiative of showcasing female artists (ChoreographHer), and audiences can see the way in which women are elevated to this master’s sphere, that is so often limited to the male choreographers within ballet. So too, you can feel the freedom in which the female dancers could express their characters, which may have been attributed to the safe space women find amongst other women (particularly in the wake of assault allegations made against famous male choreographers). 

Back in the “normal” ballet review world: the scenic design (by Peter Farmer, courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre) and the music (conducted by Mischa Santora) was outstanding. Paired with the dynamic lighting (by Brandon Stirling Baker)—and smoke work—the ambiance was just what it was supposed to be in any given scene. Friendly German town, exciting royal visit, or murky dangerous forest, the prior three components came together beautifully with the dancing to tell the story. 

But while these were all highlights, the most memorable parts weren’t necessarily the ones that audiences were supposed to remember or notice. At one point, an on-stage dog dragged his handler off-stage at the sight of the lights (the second was a very good boy, and watched the dancers as they moved past him); at another, a corps (group) dancer accidentally dragged on an extra piece of tulle, and tried to subtly kick it off stage. At a few spots, partnered turns ended shakily and with a harsh arm-grab, or heels wobbled while raising legs. About half of the crowd seemed to be sick with a cough, and someone’s phone went off early on. 

A few things happened in ways that made the audience unsure if it was on purpose or not: flowers falling out of their spot on the door, or one of the men dropping his sword and scrambling to pick it up. It was either accidentally funny because of how well the dancers recovered, or the dancers were so good at acting that things went wrong that we weren’t positive if they actually had.

It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it was an enjoyable one nonetheless. The ambiance, as I’ve already explained, was there and impressive. The “Grand Pas,” or main partner dance, was beautiful. The story was engaging. And that’s what matters. Call the rest “opening night issues” and go anyways.