Because the two halves of "Giselle" are so different in terms of the amount of plot and type of dancing they contain, performers and performances often fall into being classified as Act 1 "daylight" or Act 2 "night-time" sorts. Yesterday's rendition of the popular classic by the National Ballet of Canada at Carter Barron Amphitheatre was neither. It was so up and down that the evening was one of constant surprises.
Act 1 was conceived as an old-fashioned melodrama but Tomas Schramek, as the guilty hero Albrecht, sometimes acted with such broadly stylized gestures, and then suddenly so casually, that his performance seemed schizophrenic. His dancing was vigorous but slighly fratic. In the title role of the village girl duped by him, Vanessa Harwood at first was too coy for her size. She is a big woman, who can dance with impressive amplitude but not with consistent lightness or ease. The beginning of her mad scene wasn't convincing, but after she stabbed herself with Albrecht's sword, she was transformed into a wild-eyed creature whose every step, gesture and breath seemed compelling.
John Aubrey's Hilarion alternated between being the village idiot and the village bully. Charles Kirby, striding across the stage as the Prince of Courland and swinging his great cloak with ease, was the only dance actor whose interpretation was consistent. The best dancing in Act 1 was by the two peasant lads, dynamic David Roxander and elegant Miguel Garcia.
The Wilis of Act I came closer to impressive dancing than on opening night.Led by Gloria Luoma, a Myrtha who didn't bouree beautifully but radiated evil with her clipped leaps, the Canadian women almost succeeded in overcoming their neatly drilled look.Schramek sustained the elegiac mood of this half of the ballet, but tired too soon in his dancing. Harwood was tense in the unsupported adagio passages but impressive in her final gliding farewell.
Despite the pleasant weather, the crowd at Carter Barron could have been bigger. Perhaps it will be for Karan Kain and Frank Augustyn's "Giselle" on Friday and a repeat of the triple bill tonight.