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PNB - Blowing the Dust Off "Giselle" and Audiences Away

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of centuries past, Pacific Northwest Ballet's world premiere staging of "Giselle" raises the bar on classical ballet storytelling. This fantastical production - the likes of which I have not seen since Romeo et Juliette - brought the audience to its feet in standing ovation during Saturday night's performance.

Extreme Makeover - Peter Boal Edition

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite as Albrecht, and Kaori Nakamura as Giselle, in PNB's world premiere staging of Giselle. Photo © Angela Sterling


While today's ballets are often filled with flashy showmanship (which I love, don't get me wrong), PNB's Giselle hones in on the story itself. Every detail, every gesture is of utmost importance. One slip and the spell is broken.

The PNB dancers tackled this challenge head on and created what can only be described as a masterpiece.

Kaori Nakamura's Giselle is every inch the sweet, naive girl next door. In a cruel twist of fate, her character's love for dance is impaired by a most delicate physical constitution. Giselle refuses to listen to her mother (played by the ever-popular Chalnessa Eames) when she tells her, "Honey, that boy is no good for you!" Not only should she not dance but she apparently shouldn't date, either. (Enter teenage rebellion in 3...2...1...)

Nakamura is light, "springy" and just a wee bit sassy - that is, until she goes mad. Then she's a wild, flailing disastrously distraught young woman suffering from her first - and only - heartbreak. (Oh if only she had listened to her mama...*Sigh*) Nakamura captured Giselle's devastation and rode that crazy train all the way through to the last stop. Bravo!

Resident "lady killer" Duke Albrecht was performed by the incomparable Lucien Postlewaite. This charming seducer is dangerously handsome, arrogant, headstrong and ever so slightly intoxicated by his own charm. He knows darn well that his feelings for Giselle are inappropriate, but the thrill of the hunt is far too enticing to pass up. Later when Giselle breathes her last, Albrecht discovers just how dangerous a woman's emotions can be. (Run, boy! Run!)

Postlewaite's interpretation applies a fresh streak of color to a beloved canvas. For the first time in my life, I actually felt sorry for Albrecht. (And coming from a major Wili fan...that's huge!)

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura as Giselle, with company dancers in PNB's world premiere staging of Giselle. Photo © Angela Sterling


Hilarion, the third point on this ill-fated love triangle, beautifully performed by Jeffrey Stanton. His interpretation was mature, protective, determined - and later, deeply wounded.  (A  sharp contrast to Postlewaite's "headstrong teenager" Albrecht!) His love for Giselle is evident but like most "good girls", she craves the forbidden love of the "bad boy". (Poor Hilarion.) Not that Hilarion's an angel...I personally enjoyed witnessing Stanton give full vent to Hilarion's anger at the close of Act I. His facial expressions and accusing finger - along with all that vicious brutality directed toward Albrecht - were absolutely yummy!

You Gave Me the Wilis - and I Love You For It!

Act II is all about those gorgeously vengeful Wilis! (My favorite!) Maria Chapman - aka Mytha, Queen of the Wilis - was just...just...oh my goodness, I can't even come up with an appropriate word for it. She was that darn good! All those itsy bitsy bourrées transformed her from mere mortal to a delicate wisp of moonlight floating across the stage! (Just watching her made me involuntarily flex my toes in sympathy.)

Chapman, along with her faithful companions - Moyna (Lindsi Dec) and Zulme (Lesley Rausch) - and the rest of the Wilis - convey an air of sadness that enshrouds (pun intended) their every movement. "Dying before your wedding day?" you gasp. "How dreadful!"

Not to worry. These diabolical apparitions take out their frustrations every chance they get.  As a matter of fact, this is where the real action begins! (Mmmwaa ha ha ha!)

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers as the ghostly Wilis in PNB's world premiere staging of Giselle. Photo © Angela Sterling


The Wilis hold nothing back as they force Hilarion and Albrecht to dance, dance, dance. The poor men are tossed to and fro, their faces drenched with sweat. Gasping for air, they plead for their lives but the Wilis will hear nothing of it. "Sorry, boys!" Chapman, Dec and Rausch seem to say through bitter glares. "There's no ice water in hell!" Ahhh...ruthless, cold and sinister. Perfect! ;)

Last but by no means least - kudos to the corps de ballet for their outstanding work! All those tight synchronized formations and hopping arabesques - I'd bust a Snoopy dance for joy if it didn't feel somewhat  inappropriate to do so.

Review by: Denise Opper, Media Relations - Class Act Tutu

Giselle runs through June 12th. Don't miss your chance to view this extraordinary work of art! To purchase tickets to Pacific Northwest Ballet's Giselle visit

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