The Wilis send a chill through the audience at Ballet San Jose.
With time moving inexorably forward, fewer of the great classical performance works of 18th- and 19th-century Europe can look forward to revivals. This applies no less to the staples of 19th-century Romantic ballet, not least Giselle, the earliest specimen still capable of being revived. The work premiered in Paris, in 1841, with choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, and music by Adolphe Adam. While there is no doubt that the old lady can still take breath on the strength of her title role, Adam’s music has gone the distance equally, if exclusively within the balletic context.
Opening Ballet San Jose’s 25th anniversary season, company veteran Karen Gabay took the starring role on Sunday in company director Dennis Nahat’s two-decades-old choreographic update. The performance overall was surprisingly uneven, with the corps—both male and female—lacking precision in the first act, and—women only—in the first part of Act 2. Among the soloists, Gabay used her familiar charm to lift Act 1 even while her dancing isn’t as effortless as in years gone by. Maykel Solas’ Albrecht came up short on both characterization and masculine energy. Jeremy Kovitch’s Hilarion was initially stiff and, despite more apparent testosterone in his confrontations with his rival, proved inconsistent.