In life, Sarah Lamb’s Giselle is swift and airborne with a restrained diffidence; in death, those qualities transform her into a ghostly and ethereal apparition.  As a Wili, her cool manner enhances the otherworldly feel of her dancing, although in the first act last night she did not completely convince me that she was a peasant girl driven mad by the shock of betrayal and I wasn’t quite sure that she had actually killed herself, rather than dying of a broken heart.

Lamb, a beautiful dancer with excellent taste, neither parodies early 19th century style or displays a misplaced 21st century bravura, but in this ballet I should have liked to have seen softer elbows, some lower extensions and perhaps a more forward position of the upper back.  Nevertheless, in the famous second-act adage, she seemed about to float away, and together with Steven McRae gave the illusion throughout that she was holding him up, rather than that he was lifting her.

Accuracy, such as that shown by Steven McRae’s Albrecht in his exceptional double tours en l’air landed in impeccable fifths, is rare and frees the dancer to focus on interpreting the role.  In common with Lamb, he also always seemed to have plenty of time, as did Akane Takada, Sabina Westcombe and Romany Pajdak in the Pas de Six.

As for the rest of the cast, Bennet Gartside’s HIlarion undoubtedly loves Giselle more than Albrecht does; it seems cruel that he should be the one to be danced to death.  Deirdre Chapman’s clear mime marked her out as an authoritative Berthe, but above all I shall remember the chill down the spine that Hikaru Kobayashi (Myrtha) gave me with her opening bourrée across the stage:  she gave me a truly nineteenth-century gothic thrill.

It will be fascinating to see Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta in the Royal Ballet performance to be streamed live to the Phoenix Picturehouse and the Odeon in Oxford on Monday 27 January 2014 http://www.roh.org.uk/showings/giselle-2014.

Maggie Watson

26 January 2014

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