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At the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet's "Giselle" is a stripped down production that drips passion. There aren't a lot of frills and pageantry, aside from some exquisite costumes. The simplicity accents the virtuosity of the dancing and the drama of the play. There's no wasted movement or emotion, only what's necessary. The French painter Eugene Delacroix defined "sacrifices" as "what must be sacrificed; a great art, unknown to novices. They want to show everything." This production captures the essence of that to a tee. It becomes a searing psychological drama in dance and pantomime with superb acting from the dancers.

The characters are outstanding especially Natialia Ledovskaya's Giselle. She's so naive and slow to open up to Albert. When she does, she sparkles, then when she's betrayed, she's in her own twisted world where she seems to almost comprehend, but doesn't completely, and when she does, she moves away. It's almost like she drifts in and out, but it's really madness. The other is an illusion. The smallish ensembles in the first act serve to frame the principals, and it's this, in large part that make the joys so intense and the grief so poignant.

The set is pretty simple. There's a hut on each side of the stage with a backdrop of a blue sky with some light clouds. Hans is first, then Albert places some flowers at Giselle's door. This production has a lot of flowers for props, all white. Giselle then does a light frilly solo. She's an impetuous young girl, and it shows with a lot of rapid kicks and her general lightness. The interplay between Albert and her is enchanting. He's in love, but she's shy and a bit slow to return it. She's certainly willing, though, and picks a daisy to pluck with he loves me. She puts it down, he picks it up and finishes it in a big show for her with she loves me. They do a lively pas de deux of leaps and splits, then Hans enters and everything stops cold.

Hans has loved Giselle forever and now comes face to face with the fact that she loves someone else. He's distraught and grabs her. Albert angrily pulls him away. The pantomime is powerful and clear, with absolutely no question as to the story line.

Village girls fill the stage. Albert struts a bit boastfully. He and Giselle do a duet with a lot of leaps and turns, using the corps de ballet as a backdrop. Giselle weakens and faints. The corps splits into two groups, turning in circles outward to the sides of the stage. The Prince and Giselle go between them and he lifts her to his shoulder triumphantly.

Hans finds the flowers in the basket next to Giselle's door. He's crushed and lets them fall. The royal attendants are returning from the hunt with Prince Albert's bride. They're all rather haughty, especially the Princess. Giselle kneels behind her and strokes the train of her dress. The Princess is captivated by her and gives her a necklace. Giselle does a light happy solo. The Princess could never do anything like that. She's simply too heavy a spirit to fly like that. Hans steals Albert's sword.

Following a large ensemble number, Giselle is ecstatic. She's on point as she moves across the stage on one leg, while doing rapid, fluttering kicks with the other foot. Then she pirouettes around and she seems lighter than air in her ecstasy. V. Breusenko and R. Malenko do the tremendous pas de deux. He's powerful as he leaps and beats his legs. Her arms are supremely expressive, and tell the story as they spread and turn in with her spins. They spin around each other before being joined by the large ensemble. They all pair off, turn in outward circles, and reveal the Prince and Giselle. Hans breaks it up and exposes Albert as the Prince. When he is forced to choose between Giselle and his bride, he turns from Giselle and she falls in a heap. Her mad scene is tremendous. She seems to draw circles on the floor with her arms and fingers. She's almost giddy in her grief.. When the Prince holds out his arms to her, she hesitates, floats over to him, but continues right past. She runs to her Mother, back to the Prince, and collapses dead at his feet.

Act 2 at the graveyard is as stark and cold as it can be. There's a big cross at the left, on the grave. The backdrop shows a hint of the full moon behind the clouds. There's nothing else. There's no cover for the dancers here. They are the entire show, and these dancers pull it off with style, grace, and ease. Hans drops on the grave. Lightning flashes and he runs off. Myrthe does her ethereal dance with two flowers. She does high jumps, kicks, and spins, ending at the grave. The wilis form two groups of about twelve each. They move as one in the incredible passage where they all mesh and cross on one leg on point, all the way across the stage.

Giselle appears and Myrthe draws her with a bunch of flowers. She spins and jumps in fast staccato rhythm that's smooth as silk. Albert appears and puts flowers on the grave. Lightning flashes and he starts to leave, but he can't. Viktor Dik is a stupendous Albert. He's loving and faithful, powerful, athletic, and expressive. He lovingly spreads the flowers on the grave in this oh so poignant scene. Giselle flutters in, then passes back behind the scrim as a shadow. They do a slow, burning pas de deux. He lifts and extends her flat out, high over his head. She picks up the flowers and they leap and split around the stage. He lies prostrate across the grave. The wilis enter with Hans. He does these huge leaping spins as they dance him to death. Myrthe is a powerful figure as she stands off at the front of the stage while her wilis do their work. Anton Domachev's Hans does some of the highest leaping splits I've ever seen, then drops down dead.

Next it's Albert's turn. Giselle intervenes for him, and they do another duet with big upside down lifts. Two wilis seem to pull them back with an unseen force. They come back together, and her leg kicks high above his shoulder, then he holds her in arabesque as he turns her. It's so tender and loving as he lifts her with precision and ease. She bounces high on point and her jumps look like her feet and legs are elasticized steel. The Prince does high leaping kicks. It's all so smooth. The wilis move with precision while the Queen has a commanding presence at the front. She controls Albert, and he does big leaps, beating his legs, and splits, falling in exhaustion as a bell rings. Giselle goes to him and holds him. He rises up half way from the floor and holds her while the wilis float off. He lifts her extended, and carries her in a supremely dramatic gesture. She floats off on point as day breaks. The Prince holds on to the cross, picks up the flowers, and falls on the grave, from which he couldn't tear himself away in this stupendous production of "Giselle" by The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet at The Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Kodak Theatre