In a repeat performance of "Giselle" at the Carter Barron amphitheatre last night, the National Ballet of Canada looked far more like a company of internationals standing than at either of the two previous programs I was able to catch. It wasn't just that the dancing was better, which, for the most part, it was. What made the difference was the sense of performance coming together as an integrated whole, with very few stray or discordant elements.
If this was still not an emotionally involving "Giselle," the fault lay mainly with the dramatic aspects of the first act. Kain, as Giselle, danced beautifully throughout the ballet. But she also seemed a picture of health in Act I, and her dancing was so robust -- even in the mad scene -- that is was hard to believe in the frailty so essential to the role. FRANK augustyn, moreover, whose dancing as Albrecht was technically polished if a big overcalculated, simply wasn't convincing as a lover. Until Giselle's last few moments of life, he seemed scarcely perturbed by her breakdown.
Much changed for the better in Act II. Kain's dancing took on a lightness and delicacy that, together with her softly sculpted poses, perfectly suggested a sorrowful wraith. Augustyn danced and partnered splendidly, and seemed more believable as a penitent mourner than he had been as a suitor.
Another major asset in this act was Gizella Witkowsky's darkly austere Myrtha, expressed in peremptory gestures and sharp, brilliant jumps. It's worth noting too that all three of these dancers are native Canadians who were trained from an early age at the National Ballet's own school.
Among others who stood out in the generally fine cast were Kevin Pugh and Peter Ottman for their spirited virtuosity in the Pas de Quatre; Hazeros Surmeyan as a gruffly indignant Hilarion; and Barbara Szablowski and Charles Kirby, repeating their regally stylish portrayals of Bathilde and the Prince of Courland.
As the ghostly Wilis of Act II, the corps de ballet danced with appreciably more security and elegance than on opening night. And the orchestra too, though it couldn't entirely overcome the effects of the Carter Barron's wretchedly tinny amplification, gave a newly enlivened account of the score under the baton of John Goss.