A pocket "Giselle" works better than scaled-down versions of most ballet classics because the dancing and acting in much of this piece are embodied inseparably in a few characters. In this weekend's staging by Arlington's Classical Ballet Theater at the Thomas Jefferson Theater, there were no lads for the Rhineland village in which the action is set, no untroubled local couple to entertain with a Peasant pas de deux, and no greyhounds for the Prince of Courland's hunting party. Such cuts have valid precedents, and matter not at all when the substance of the ballet is intact -- Giselle and Albrecht's troubled love, her madness and death when she discovers he is betrothed, and in the second act those vengeful spirits and the protagonists' salvation through undying love and noble dancing.
In this new edition, characterizations and visual clues are carefully attuned to further the story. One knows right away that Giselle's other suitor, Hilarion, hasn't a chance when he places his bouquet for her in a window box of flowers where they disappear among the other blooms. Albrecht's carelessness and his eager, initially unthinking nature are revealed very soon when he forgets to remove his sword and, after finally doing so, forgets that too. Even so, honest and dumb Hilarion doesn't guess that Albrecht is a courtier in disguise but must actually see him in his great cloak and attended by his squire to make the connection.
All these details should add up, but mustn't be intrusive, and most members of the cast were able to dispatch such stage business easily. Yet at the Sunday performance Act 1 didn't catch fire. Act 2 did, and that's what a good "Giselle" is all about.
In the title role, Linda Kintz wasn't the usual, frail maiden. From the first moments when she bounded out of her cottage to her final dance to save Albrecht's life, she was vigorous. Her jump was strong, her extension high and developed with impressive control, her balance secure and her line clean. One set of unsupported pirouettes in Act 2 proved to be especially polished. Yet, in Act 1 she seemed to go in and out of character, and when she was out her acting lacked spontaneity. In Act 2, Kintz danced as if she were angry and this worked wonderfully to transform Giselle from a character into a symbol of love.
Albrecht was Mark Mejia, and he's in fine form this season. Always a good partner, he looks slimmer than in the recent past and is dancing more cleanly. He may have held too many arabesques too long, but the number of his entrechats at the end of Act 2 was admirable.
Kintz and Mejia were supported by a good female corps but there were a few untidy formations. Yet, led by Nancy Woods, Victoria Moses and Dawn Hillen, they conveyed some of the dance madness of the Wilis legend. The veils in which they first appear were worn effectively for much of their scene. Thomas Bell's Hilarion, David Smith's Squire Wilfred, Phylis Blake as Giselle's mother and the other character roles were done in a straightforward manner.