Monday, June 2, 2014

Timeless Kaori Nakamura

Kaori Nakamura and Jerome Tisserand in Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Giselle"
photo by Angela Sterling
She's been dancing for more than three decades, but on opening night of Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of Peter Boal's "Giselle," Kaori Nakamura looked as fresh and radiant as a woman half her age (44!). In the demanding title role, Nakamura conveyed every nuance of the love-struck young girl driven to madness, then death, by the perfidy of her man. She also showed us what we'll miss next season; Nakamura retires June 8th.

Nakamura's Act I Giselle is a coquette-a grape-picking peasant who has her eye on the hunky guy in the hut across the town square. Luckily, he's also got his eye on her. They flirt, they dance, they get engaged. But the hunk, Albrecht, isn't who he seems to be. Turns out he's really a nobleman in disguise. Worse, he's already engaged to somebody else. When Giselle finds out the truth (from the guy she's spurned), she descends into a grief induced madness that ultimately kills her.
Jerome Tisserand as Albrecht in PNB's "Giselle"
photo by Angela Sterling
Jerome Tisserand took on the role of Albrecht opposite Nakamura's Giselle, and it was a great opportunity for this dazzling young dancer, and for the audience. Tisserand still holds the rank of soloist with the company, but to my eyes he's the most princely man to take the McCaw Hall stage since Lucien Postlewaite left PNB three years ago for Monte Carlo. For one thing, Jerome Tisserand looks like a prince: handsome, dark, with chiseled cheek bones. But he's got more than looks going for him. He dances with a grace and lightness that set him apart. Tisserand is unbound by the same gravity that encumbers the rest of us.
Jerome Tisserand with Kaori Nakamura in PNB's "Giselle"
photo by Angela Sterling

In Act II, Giselle is dead. A grief-stricken Albrecht wanders into a spooky forest haunted by the ghosts of spurned women-the Wilis. When their queen, Myrtha, orders Albrecht to dance, Tisserand propels himself more than two feet straight off the ground, scissoring his feet like a hummingbird's wings. Then he does that a few more times for good measure. (If this ballet was set in the Wild West, the bad guy would be peppering his feet with bullets, goading him to 'dance, sucker.') Every time Tisserand's Albrecht staggers in exhaustion, Myrtha (danced by the ever astonishing Carrie Imler) points her finger at him, then mimes that he better keep going. So he does, circling the stage in continuous leaps. I'm sure Tisserand was thrilled when his character got to collapse to the stage floor; it was a good chance for him to catch his breath. I needed to catch mine, too.
Kaori Nakamura, Jerome Tisserand and PNB corps de ballet in "Giselle"
photo by Angela Sterling

PNB's production of "Giselle" was first unveiled three years ago. It was recreated from original manuscripts and notation. The company borrowed sets and costumes for those performances. This time around, PNB built all new sets and costumes. Particularly interesting were large etchings projected on a scrim that was revealed when the curtain rose. But it's the dancing that stands out in this production, particularly in Act II. The corps de ballet women, in long, ethereal white gowns, are the Wilis: stern, disciplined and magnificent. They execute their choreography with a fearsome precision. At one point, in unison, they hop across the stage on one foot. Their bodies lean forward from the waist, one arm extended straight in front of them at shoulder height, the other straight to the rear. They are Myrtha's angry army, prepared to hound to the death any unsuspecting man who ventures into their path.
PNB corps de ballet members as Wilis in "Giselle"
photo by Angela Sterling

All cylinders clicked in "Giselle", but opening night belonged to Kaori Nakamura. She made the dramatic evolution from flirtatious young girl, through hysterical madness, to defiant spectre seem effortless. Physically, Nakamura gave us her all: leaping and spinning with abandon, stalking across the floor en pointe, dangling almost weightless in Tisserand's arms, legs waving softly to and fro like a tree in a breeze.
Kaori Nakamura as Giselle
photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet

Lucky for us "Giselle" continues this weekend at McCaw Hall. Nakamura and Tisserand are schedule to perform the Saturday June 7th matinee. To mangle Shakespeare, get thee to the theater!

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