Whatever long-range benefits may accrue to the American Ballet Theatre production of "Giselle" as a result of Mikhail Baryshnikov's new stylistic revisions, they were no help to last night's performance, which was about as lifeless and dramatically askew as one would ever care to see.
Cynthia Gregory, a superb and notably versatile dancer, apparently still feels a need to assay the "standard" role of Giselle even though it goes so much against the grain of her physique and stage temperament. The question is why -- neither she nor the part has anything to gain from the combination. Though she is astute enough to simulate some of the requisite qualities, as she again demonstrated last night, the illusion of innocent frailty in Act I or ghostly insubstantiality in Act II is shattered the moment she begins boundind around the stge like a virtuoso on horseback.
As for Alexander Godunov, both his acting and his dancing thus far this season have been cleaner and less mannered than previously, and this was true again last night -- up to but not including Giselle's death, he was almost a believable Albrecht. Thereafter, his stylistic gaucherie and stereotyped histrionics reasserted themselves to all-too-predictable effect.
Except for Kristine Elliott and Gregory Osborne, who danced quite fetchingly in the Peasant Pas de Deux, there were few saving graces. Jolinda Menendez, with her ungainly line and unrhythimical phrasing, was a drab Myrta, and most of the other supporting cast, like Frank Smith as Hilarion, seemed to be just going through motions. Even the orchestra, which has been playing particularly well this season, was inordinately sloppy under Alan Barker's indifferent direction.
Moments after the curtain rose, Godunov, Gregory and then Smith in turn skidded on the stage floor; Godunov actually fell. Though no one appeared hurt, it was scary and unfortunate -- it was also, however, the only excitement of the evening.