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Yesterday I stepped inside a theatre for the first time since February 2020 and not without a fair degree of trepidation to see Darius James and Amy Doughty's new production of Giselle  for Ballet Cymru.   I had already seen a screening of the premiere in Lichfield and reviewed it for Terpsichore in Giselle Reimagined and I had attended a workshop on the ballet at Yorkshire Dance the day before so I knew what to expect.

I have remarked many times that James and Doughty take the essentials of the great ballets and remould them for a small cast that is constantly on the road.   They succeeded sin my view with Cinderella, Romeo a Juliet and Beauty and the Beast and I think they can chalk up Giselle as another success.  Certainly I prefer it to Akram Khan's and I liked it at least as much as Dada Masilo which I also admired.   If you want to remake one of the world's best known and best loved ballets that is the way to it. 

James and Doughty commissioned Catrin Finch to adapt Adam's score.   She had worked with them before on Celtic Concerto and The Light Princess.   The opening bars of Adam's overture for Acts I and II remained unchanged and there snatches of his score in the mad scene and there was a Welsh folk air at the beginning but most of the rest of the score was new.

The choreographers had left the story more or less intact but there were a few changes.   Albrecht was not the lord of the manner but a bounder who was cheating on his wife. At Wednesday's workshop Andrea Battagia who danced Albrecht suggested that he might be a social worker.   The costumes were contemporary and the ballet seemed to bve set in post-industrial Southeast Wales.  The choreography was very different.   Giselle's theme was a complicated hand and upper arm movement which Beth Meadway taught us in the workshop instead of the familiar jumpty jump.   Ballet Cymru's scenery is projected into a backcloth and I have to say that the projections and lighting were impressive.   I particularly liked the country churchyard at dawn as the wilis (renamed zombies in this version) scuttled away.

Everyone in the cast danced well.   I was particularly impressed with the leads, Battagoa and Meadway.   Meadway is tall with a naturally expressive face. In a couple of scenes in Act II when she appeared en pointe in a romantic tutu I was  reminded of lithographs of Carlotta Grisi.   Battagia crossed the stage with grace and elegance assured of the attention of the crowd.   Izzie Holland and Robbie Moorcroft as the female and male leaders of the zombies were awesome in both the old fashioned and contemporary senses.  Yasset Rolden was a smouldering Hilarion.   I will follow his career with interest,

For those who do not know the story this is the best possible introduction.   I did miss the dreamlike floating quality of the traditional Giselle but this Giselle is set in contemporary brexit Britain  where unpleasant things oozing out of cracks are much more common than aetherial spirits.   Not everybody's panad o de but it is mine.

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I saw the performance at Leeds as well.

I enjoyed the first act but thought some parts of the action were unclear. At the start a doctor, wearing a face mask, reacted with Giselle and I assumed that she was in a hospital, which reminded me slightly of Mats Ek's version where Giselle ends up in a mental health institution, but after that I didn't notice any reference to any sort of hospital. Another confusing point was when Hilarion finds something incriminating in Albrecht's coat but neither I nor the friend I was with could work out what it was. Giselle's death was very sudden and it wasn't clear to me how she died. The dancers were wear contemporary type clothes. The style was contemporary ballet, no pointe work but pleasant.

The second act was something else. No bride-like Wilis but ghouls, wearing strange makeup and even weirder clothes. Some of the ghosts were male. The women danced on pointe (this, and some of the soundscape reminded me slightly of the Akram Khan version). The choreography was original and gripping. When Giselle and Albrecht eventually appeared their tenderness permeated the choreography yet I didn't get the impression of Giselle's overwhelming love for, and protectiveness of, Albrecht which is at the very heart of the classic. This act would work equally effectively on its own in a mixed bill.

The dancers were all good, although I was slightly disappointed in Battggia as Albrecht (and with a family of social workers I don't like his theory that Terpischore cites that Albrecht is a social worker!- no evidence in the choreography or interpretation), but Yasset Roldan (Hilarion) is a stunning dancer. Altogether the company is well worth catching if their tour takes them anywhere near you.

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I saw the show again in the Riverfront Theatre in Newport this evening.   That is the company's home theatre and they danced before an appreciative audience   They also had a bigger stage and could dance behind a gauze screen. I was able to pick up all sorts of nuances that I had missed before such as the ECG reading and the incorporation of Calon Lan into the score. Giselle has a weak heart.  The percussion at the start and end of Act represents her heart beat.

Ballet Cymru had danced well in Leeds and will have made a lot of friends but they were lifted by their home crowd.  I met Catrin Finch who re-created the score at a reception after the show.   She has very kindly agreed in principle to give me a short interview for Terpsichore.

I will write a proper review for Terpsichore after I return to Yorkshire.

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