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Sarasota Ballet's 'Giselle' delivers the drama

The dancers bring the story of tragedy alive in their performance of Sir Peter Wright's classic.

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  • | 9:24 a.m. December 20, 2021
Victoria Hulland, Dierdre Miles Burger and Ricardo Rhodes in Sir Peter Wright's "Giselle." (Photo by Frank Atura)
Victoria Hulland, Dierdre Miles Burger and Ricardo Rhodes in Sir Peter Wright's "Giselle." (Photo by Frank Atura)
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“Giselle” is one of the world’s oldest and most performed ballets across the globe. Originally choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, the Sarasota Ballet returned to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall stage with Sir Peter Wright’s version this past weekend.

“Giselle” is a two-act romantic ballet that tells the story of a young peasant girl (Giselle) who falls for a flirtatious aristocrat (Albrecht). After learning that he has deceived her, the fragile Giselle goes mad and dies. She joins the afterlife in the second act and becomes one of the Wilis, the ghost spirits who died after being betrayed by their lovers. They force the men who deceived them to dance until exhausted. Wright’s version is the perfect blend of dance and drama.

Victoria Hulland reprised the coveted title role on opening night, her debut over 10 years ago (also the Sarasota Ballet’s debut of this version). From the moment she entered in Act One, she dominated the stage with the perfect fusion of technical maturity and artistic nuance. She is innocent and darling as she falls in love with Ricardo Rhodes’s Albrecht, and her mad scene is hauntingly realistic.

Hulland and Rhodes were a fine match as he wooed her in Act One and partnered her gently in Act Two. Solo sections for the principles throughout the ballet are some of the most technically challenging, yet Hulland and Rhodes tackled them with ease.

One of the highlights in Wright’s version is the peasant pas de six, traditionally choreographed as a pas de deux. The three couples brought an abundance of energy in the first act. Arcadian Broad and Yuki Nonaka were virtuoso and in sync in the male duet, and Marijana Dominis was gorgeous throughout. Ricki Bertoni portrayed Hilarion, the local forester who is also in love with Giselle, with anguish and attack. Dierdre Miles Burger was tender in the smaller but important role of Berthe, Giselle’s mother. The ensemble sections – the lively peasant dances in Act One, and the serene Wilis in Act Two – were meticulous.

The vivacious performance on stage was accompanied perfectly by the Sarasota Orchestra, conducted by Jared Oaks, guest conductor and music director at Ballet West. Aaron Muhl exquisitely lit the detailed sets and costumes, supervised by Doug Nicholson. The Sarasota Ballet will return after the new year to the FSU Center for the Performing Arts with Program 4 – “Love & Betrayal,” from Jan. 28-31. See you there!  


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