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Cuba Dances Capital `Giselle' in D.C. (National).

Cuba Dances Capital `Giselle' in D.C. Ballet Nacional de Cuba Opera House, John IF. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Washington, D.C. November 20-25, 2001

To open the Ballet Nacional de Cuba's first Washington season in twenty-two years, director Alicia Alonso selected Giselle, the classic with which she is most identified and a work for which she has earned some extraordinary superlatives.

Universally ranked among the finest Giselles of all time--and so far, the only ballerina on that A-list born in this hemisphere--Alonso takes on a staggering mystique when her triumph is considered in light of her blindness. How she learned the entire choreography by marking it with her fingers, during bed rest following one of her eye surgeries, is a chapter in ballet lore topped only by her extended reign of glory in the title role, despite her impaired vision. Thanks to Giselle's ethereal second act, on the Ballet Nacional's touring program from the 1960s to the mid-1990s, Alonso enjoyed perhaps the longest stage career in ballet history.

But if Giselle was Alonso's star vehicle in her heyday, by now her progeny in the Ballet Nacional have stamped it with their own imprimatur. The day before the opening, Alonso told The Washington Post, with reference to a classic repertoire which also included Coppelia on the company's visit, "According to the press, to the critics, we are the best company that performs these ballets." It would be hard to disagree with that assessment of Giselle, given the ballet company's exquisite performance opening night. The production was also an eye opener. Usually Giselle's success rides on the diva dancing the lead, with the ballet in service to her; here, the star of the show was a perfectly calibrated ensemble working together in service to the ballet.

Some of the credit for the production's brilliance, though, has to go to the principal artists who carried the narrative of the peasant girl who dies after being deceived by a noble in disguise, then prevents the Wills from destroying him by making him dance until dawn.

Lorna Feijoo, fine-boned and delicate, stepped capably into Alonso's slippers as a fragile, then compassionate, Giselle. Her love, the aristocratically proportioned Oscar Torrado, had soaring extensions and just as easily propelled himself into flight. Laura Hormigon was an icily poised Queen of the Wilis, and Victor Gill was ruggedly convincing in the mime role of Hilarion, Giselle's spurned suitor, although you wished he had more to do.

The same was true for rest of the men--Joel Carreno, Nelson Madrigal, Octavio Martin, and Jaime Diaz. Perhaps the most long-limbed men in classical ballet, the Cubans have feet as beautifully articulate as the women's, and watching them effortlessly tossing off the few tours de force in the first act's harvest celebration, it's clear they're capable of much more. But this production was about art rather than acrobatics.

As Theophile Gautier said, after writing the libretto with Saint-Georges and Coralli, Giselle's heart lies in the second act, with its poignant pas de deux and luminous lines of women in white. "Well, schooled" is the term running through reviews of the Ballet Nacional's beautiful, clean dancing, and it definitely applied here--the women's bourrees en pointe come to mind, amazingly fast and as soft and light as summer rain. But styling is also Alonso's mantra, and her company showcased ballet's Romantic tradition right down to its most devilish detail. Especially in the second act, the subdued arms, sustained forward postures, tilted heads, and precisely angled chin of each dancer, as the lines of white tulle tutus unfurled, translated as silken bravura.

None of the subtlety was lost on the audience. When, after several curtain calls, Alonso took her place among her company, the house rose in a roaring ovation. "!Viva Cuba!" some shouted; "!Viva Alicia!" cheered others.
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Author:Durbin, Paula
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Mar 1, 2002
Words:636
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