Giselle: Her Spring Break
Kansas City Ballet performs a classic.
Today, the sunshine contrasts with the white sky day earlier this week, those rumors of flurries and sleet. Spring approaches inch by inch. We’re ready for a bit of contrast to this past winters white stuff and early darkness. Clocks spring forward on Saturday. A mythical extra hour of sleep we’ll pay back in the fall. We’re ready.
One can bestow the adjective classic right before the word Giselle. The ballet endures for a number of reasons. Research its history if you desire, bone-up on the storyline and listen to some of the beautiful score. I won’t write a spoiler. This ballet, this particular production by our Kansas City Ballet Company and the Kansas City Symphony, endures because of contrast and forgiveness.
Contrast. Two acts.
Act one: light, joy, love, color, promise, a village, pastoral, unity…ending in tears.
Act Two: darkness, sadness, regret, translucent, doom, a graveyard, other-worldly, tension…ending in forgiveness.
Dance communicates narrative, creates a feeling and gives us motion, moving us in many ways. You’ll have the treat of seeing the entire company dance in Giselle. That density on stage is stunning in contrast to minimalistic pieces that bring focus to one or two artists. In this ballet, for you will be in it, drawn in, you’ll find your eyes darting left and right, your head in rhythm to the score. You’ll be surprised by the big dogs who do not dance. The contrasting palettes of Act One and Two will have you wondering how things get this way; two contrasting visions of the world, two atmospheres as different as chalk and cheese.
The unifying thread of this narrative, this feast of dance, is the ensemble of dancers. The sets set the mood, the lights shade and illuminate, the costumes transform, but the dancers unfold this story. At times, the dancers need not dance, as music’s silence is music. The main characters on this populated stage seem to have to project more to stand out in the crowd. They do it well. The company shares their company’s great form in this production. There’s magical precision when seventeen ballerinas join together. I needed a wider lens. There’s a cinematic quality to the village scenes, so deep and wide, that make me understand why watching ballet on film is often a flat experience for me.
While many will be writing about the principal dancers, I sense that the principals would suggest that their principal roles lean upon the principle of collaboration, the beauty of company when a company joyfully celebrates their art form together. Correction there: art forms. The artists, designers, musicians, directors, costume designers and assemblers, set builders, make-up artists, and choreographers - ballet is an art form deep and wide.
Giselle is a forgiving soul; an apt emotion as we approach spring and plan our spring breaks. We’ve worked pretty hard through this bleak winter, this “Darkuary” of 2011. Be forgiving to yourself, take a break, take in this ballet or one of the other rich artful events in this accessible city of ours, side-step the March-madness, doff those primary team colors, dress up a bit, and allow yourself to be transported to contrasting worlds, and feel something. Giselle is stunning, intense and emotional, but she and her fellow company of villagers, lovers, and spirits are very forgiving.