Tag Archives: Giselle

Timeless TBA: art & politics in ‘Giselle’

“We could do with a regiment of Wilis to haunt the halls of Congress,” Martha Ullman West declares, and then she tells us why. Art Scatter’s chief correspondent, who reviewed Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s current production of “Giselle” here for The Oregonian, expands on her ideas for us, moving the conversation into the twilight territory between arts and politics.

Giselle (Haiyan Wu) and the peasants in "Giselle" at OBT. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.

By Martha Ullman West

With no apologies whatsoever to PICA and its annual TBA festival, Giselle is a sterling example of time-based art.

The creators of this collaborative piece from 1841 – composer Adolphe Adam, choreographers Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, and librettists Vernoy de Saint Georges and Theophile Gautier – were seasoned, rather than young, creatives.

Coralli and Perrot were making some distinct innovations in ballet technique, particularly pointe work, which gave new prominence and independence to ballerinas. You can see this particularly in Act II, where the women balance in unsupported arabesques. And the librettists were expressing, or reflecting, some political ideas just seven years before Karl Marx (who came from the Rhineland, in which the ballet is set) issued the Communist Manifesto.

So the ballet is at once time-based and timeless, a great work of art, providing a cathartic experience in the theater as well as much food for thought. Oregon Ballet Theatre’s new production (staged by Lola de Avila, and repeating this weekend) looks distinctly old, but because of the commitment and talents of the dancers, it speaks to our concerns as well as our hearts.

Think about the libretto. The class divide (or “war,” to use Republican hyperbole, and which our president isn’t causing) drives the plot.

Continue reading Timeless TBA: art & politics in ‘Giselle’

At ‘Giselle,’ the view from on high

Before the fall: a joyous Haiyan Wu and Chauncey Parsons as Giselle and Albrecht at OBT. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.

By Bob Hicks

Seeking to rise above the weather under which he’s been submerged these past several days, Mr. Scatter elevated to the balcony of Keller Auditorium on Saturday evening so he could take in the grand sweep of Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s new Giselle. The air was a little giddy up there – or maybe it was just the gyroscope wobbling inside Mr. Scatter’s overstuffed head – but the view was magnificent.

Mr. Scatter ordinarily sits on the orchestra level, closer to the stage, where the sounds of scraping slippers are more strenuous and the actorly expressions of the dancers are as revealing as they can get in a 3,000-seat hall. Upstairs, he missed some of the dramatic detail (how was the gifted Chauncey Parsons interpreting the two-timing rich dude Albrecht? – easy to tell choreographically, tough to tell psychologically) but had a better chance to appreciate the breadth and patterns of the dancing, which can unfold so much more fully from above. What he lost in intimacy he gained in scope: a sort of whole-picture Cinemascopic sweep of design; what the movie people call mise-en-scène.

And what a scène it was.

Continue reading At ‘Giselle,’ the view from on high

Link: Pander in war, Wilis on the loose

Henk Pander, "Resistance Asleep," oil, 1995.

By Bob Hicks

I just posted this story, Pander transported: memories of a time of war, on Oregon Arts Watch. It’s a look at Dutch-born Portland artist Henk Pander’s remarkable series of paintings and drawings at the Oregon Jewish Museum based on his childhood memories of World War II in his hometown of Haarlem. An excerpt:

“Even more cadaverous, and ravenous, is the 1999 ink drawing ‘Soup Kitchen,’ in which thin skull-eyed children bend over bowls of thin liquid. This might be Pander’s memory of the winter of 1944-45, the hongerwinter, a time of famine caused by harsh weather and a German blockade, during which those who survived (18,000 did not) did so partly on a diet of tulip bulbs and sugar beets. War is an act of waiting, and people wait in these drawings and paintings. They endure, if that’s the right word, and they anticipate, and they simply – wait. For the next bad thing. For the end of the next bad things.”


And in Friday’s A&E section of The Oregonian, my preview interview with the charming Lola de Avila, stager of Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s new version of Giselle, ran. Besides talking with de Avila, one of those great old-time dancers who wastes no time declaring that today’s dancers are better-trained (well, she’s one of the people doing the training), I spent a couple of hours in rehearsal watching her teach the corps de ballets how to act like perfectly ghastly Wilis. Which, of course, is what they’re supposed to be. You can read the story here.

ILLUSTRATION: Henk Pander, “Resistance Asleep,” oil, 1995. Courtesy Oregon Jewish Museum.

For OBT, a season to give you the Wilis

By Bob Hicks

The world of ballet has its share of exotic creatures, from lovelorn swan-women to a magical firebird to a princess who takes a hundred-year nap.

Lithograph by unknown of the ballerina Carlotta Grisi in en:Giselle. Paris, 1841. Image was scanned from the book "The Romantic Ballet in Paris" by Ivor Guest. Wikimedia Commons.But no one seems quite as oddball, or as eerily sympathetic and nasty at the same time, as the Wilis, those sad young spectres of girls who were jilted by their lovers before their wedding day and now spend their nights madly dancing young men to death before fading off into the sunrise.

Tuesday night, Oregon Ballet Theatre threw a little party in its studios to announce its 2011-12 season, and one of the highlights of the lineup is Giselle, the venerable story ballet in which the Wilis rose to fame.

Here’s the new season lineup:

Continue reading For OBT, a season to give you the Wilis