Fort Worth — Complete with guest artists, elaborate sets, and dazzling costumes, Ballet Frontier of Texas produced the much-loved classic ballet Giselle. From professional dancers to young apprentices and trainees of the company, each mover beamed with charisma and dedication themselves to their characters.
Artistic director Chung-Lin Tseng based his choreography on the original work of Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, maintaining the integrity of miming and gesture movements from traditional romantic ballets. Their stellar guest cast featured Kathryn Boren of the American Ballet Theatre as Giselle, Dan Westfield of the Minnesota Ballet as Duke Albrecht, and Nathan Vendt of the American Ballet Theatre as one half of the Peasant Pas de Deux. Former Texas Ballet Theater member Mason Anders also joined the production as Hilarion. With such an experienced cast of lead roles, the performance captured the professionalism and maturity of this difficult ballet.
Throughout Act I, Boren’s performance illuminated the stage with her vivacity and youthfulness. Clothed in a folksy blue dress, she emitted energy, happiness, and hopefulness through her sharp turns and lengthy extensions. Westfield played a balanced counterpart to the coy, lighthearted Giselle with his confident steps and tenacious leaps. Surrounded by charming villagers, the couple flirted through buoyant prances, circle dances, and lighthearted clapping. Company members acted as Giselle’s friends and the apprentices and trainees played the villagers. Both groups filled the stage with constantly changing spatial patterns. The dancers’ cheerful demeanors and precise steps created a visually stimulating scene and a joyful tone. The Peasant Pas de Deux performed by Elizabeth Villarreal and Vendt added to the celebratory atmosphere. Villarreal gained confidence throughout her performance, ending with a strong solo. However Vendt’s spectacular tour and jump combination proved to be the highlight of the duet.
Giselle’s death scene caused a shift in the mood while villagers attempted to pull her out of her manic episode. Once again, Boren impressed viewers with her convincing performance. She fully committed to her dramatic dives to the floor while she clawed at her unbound hair and costume. Her transition from innocent, jovial girl to a more serious, mature woman continued into the second act.
In contrast to the first half of the evening, Act II hosted a somber, haunting tone as Giselle and her wilis danced Hilarion into exhaustion and toyed with the brokenhearted Albrecht. This act also introduced the epic performance of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis. Played by Hannah Wakefield, her bourrées across the stage while covered in a white veil and romantic white tutu cast an eerie spell throughout the auditorium. Joined by her wili subjects, they floated around with elegance and maturity. Precise in timing and steps, they cultivated a dreamlike state as Westfield was faced with the spirit of his beloved. Boren’s embodiment of Giselle in the second half was stunning. Every balance gushed with confidence and a newly found maturity. This attitude carried through to her pas de deux with Westfield. Their chemistry grew with every touch. Each lift displayed a loving, tenderness that was absent in the first half.
Ballet Frontier’s production captured both the folksy and romantic qualities of Giselle through careful casting, rehearsal, and character embodiment. The technique and talent of the entire company added an extra layer of polish to a well-produced show.