Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Paloma Herrera and Marcelo Gomes, ABT's Giselle in Ottawa, February 27

February 27th, Friday evening, 8 PM

Marcelo Gomes and Nina Ananiashvili in Giselle, Act II
Andres Mohin photo for NYT
Marcelo Gomes is an astounding dancer, really. Not only does he have the perfect body, endowed with the most agreeable eye-pleasing proportions: legs with muscles creating superb contours, pliable and arched, shapely feet, long neck below a ruggedly handsome, expressive face, beautiful arms and hands, masculine chest and slim hips, but he’s got the technique that accentuates his gorgeous features and the acting skills that complete this package of perfection. Every move he makes is so compellingly watchable. Even when he’s just observing the center-stage action from the side, you are drawn to him.

His portrayal of Count Albrecht/Loys was the one to see if you could see only one. With every nuance ideally rendered, he drew us into the story expression by expression as he acted and danced. His countenance and demeanor demonstrated aspects of playfulness, gentlemanliness, courtliness, nobility, dignity, concern, tenderness, and true love – all befitting the story at just the right times.

Marcelo Gomes and Nina Ananiashvili in Giselle, Act I
Andres Mohin photo for NYT
His dancing was unassailable. What a jump! What beats (only a split hair below those of David Hallberg, but that’s only because David’s feet will always win out)! What ballon! What port de bras! What lyricism! What an arabesque! What turns -- attitude, pirouettes, tours,...!!! You get the idea.

Memorable Marcelo Act I moments:

1) As Loys, his tender rescue and protection of Giselle’s feelings during the daisy-plucking incident. All the Count/Loys’s performed this scene very well, but Marcelo’s stood out for its gentleness and warmth. It cemented our belief in his affection for Giselle.

2) His kind-hearted treatment of his friend Wilfred. Interacting with him, he shows the affection that good buddies have for each other, and, with his unique charisma, Count-Marcelo-as-Loys has a devoted ally in his Wilfred (Alexei Agoudine).

3) When confronted by Bathilde, his deceptive actions revealed, he reacts with confidence and acceptance, showing her respect and attending to her words, concurrently looking over to Giselle with the focus he had shown her when they were alone. He covered his bases, but not disingenuously. He really cared for both of them.

4) The fight between the Count and Hilarion. This is also a Memorable Isaac Moment. These two really had at it! The pushing, the shoving, the back and forth struggle! Count Marcelo is hurled to the ground and sent sliding backwards by Hilarion Isaac. Albrecht counters with equal forcefulness. Hilarion will not let up. Another push. Another counter-advance. The physical fervor of these opponents is a highlight of Act I!

Memorable Marcelo Act II moments:

1) As Count Marcelo first appears on stage and moves toward Giselle’s grave, he is the epitome of grief. Placing his flowers on Giselle’s freshly mounded grave, he splays himself over the soil and begins to burrow into it, clawing the earth with his fingers, wanting so to be with her. You can almost see the tears crawling down his cheeks as his face is contorted in anguish.

2) From the first sign of Wili Giselle, Albrecht senses her essence with clarity. He follows the trail of her spirit as if on a mission. Everywhere he feels her presence, he runs with unbridled longing. Theirs is a union of a love so binding that they communicate mortal soul to immortal soul. This symbiosis was awe-inspiringly in heightened evidence in the Gomes/Herrera partnership.

3) In his ultimate, grueling, Wili-commanded dance, Count Marcelo collapses, as is choreographed, but then – BUT THEN! – his entire body bounces up, convulsing horizontally, before hitting the ground in complete exhaustion.

Marcelo Gomes and Nina Ananiashvili in Giselle, Act II
Andres Mohin photo for NYT
An able foil to the Count, Isaac Stappas as Hilarion made the greatest impact of the 3 Hilarions I saw. Always “outspoken” in his dancing manner, he is one scary Hilarion. He really means business. It’s a good thing he was Marcelo’s rival, because the great Gomes can hold his own against anyone. Had David Hallberg been up against Stappas, he would have been driven into the ground, whimpering.

As the tragedy of the deception unfolds, Stappas as Hilarion seems to almost feign being devastated while inwardly proud of being the orchestrator of the whole scenario. He glories in the disclosure, revels in the limelight. Stappas’ dancing is strong and accomplished, his acting vigorous, abrupt and well-prepared. In Act II, from the bullet-fast chainé turns across the stage as he is unfurled by the unseen power of the Wilis, to his death-dance of exciting high leaps -- his dynamic thrust in the final throes agonizingly fervent -- Stappas shows his determination to avoid his downfall.

Caveat: If I seem exceptionally enthusiastic about Marcelo Gomes, it’s because I am. I first met him when he was 20 and in the corps at ABT. He danced Nutcracker with Anna Liceica for Canadian Ballet Theatre, the company of the ballet school where my daughter Järvi trained. He was already a stellar performer and an equally nice young man. Naturally, I follow his career closely. However, I am acquainted with many dancers from many companies, and I don’t praise anyone nor shower them with accolades if they don’t deserve them. If someone’s dancing doesn’t impress me, I don’t even mention that dancer in my review, however much I may like them as a person. My reviews are as objective as anyone else’s and obviously subjective, too, as ballet reviews tend to be for all critics writing them. Keep this in mind when I review Isabella Boylston’s brilliant performances. ;)

No comments: