David Hallberg returned to the Met stage in the American Ballet Theatre Giselle Saturday, a triumphant and emotional performance with Gillian Murphy as Giselle (for curtain call photos, see my photography website notmydayjobphotography.com). David has been out since 2014 after several ankle surgeries (see Dance Magazine for detail on David’s rehab in Melbourne with the Australian Ballet). In front of an enthusiastic packed crowd Saturday evening, David delivered a great performance. As if to make a loud statement that he is back, he did the difficult entrechat six sequence (24 in all) with great form after the Queen of the Wilis, Myrta, orders him to dance until he dies. Most at ABT in the Albrecht role do a brisé along the diagonal; the entrechat six makes more sense dramatically as doing this step 24 times is actually exhausting, in line with the story (Roberto Bolle is the other dancer who does the entrechat six). The last time I saw David perform the role he opted for the brisé.
David’s Albrecht was a multifaceted cad, a playboy pursuing a young village girl, ultimately falling in love with Giselle. His nuanced dramatic talents were abundant as each action had meaning, each gesture had a purpose as he ran through a gamut of actions: patronizingly dismissing his squire who renders wise advice to avoid the village; making first eye contact with the shy Giselle; gesturing as if to say “May I sit down” on a bench occupied by Giselle; deep concern for her health as she falters during a dance; the look on his face as if to say “I really don’t want be here” when his fiancé approaches with Giselle nearby; to mad grief as Giselle dies in his arms. His dramatic interpretation was impressive.
His solo work was not flawless as I’ve seen David deliver a better second solo in Act II. He opted for single cabrioles along a diagonal and had some difficulty on his turns in attitude.
This was Gillian Murphy’s ABT debut as Giselle, although she danced the role before with New Zealand Ballet. Her technique was solid, with nice hops on pointe along a diagonal, deep penchés and frenetic turns in arabesque in Act II. Gillian’s dancing was beautiful without allowing technique and athleticism to overpower the dramatic elements.
Gillian was David’s dramatic match as she portrayed a shy girl who falls in love with the Count in Act I to a defiant afterlife being determined to protect Albrecht from the man-killer Myrta. In her mad scene, she was possessed, with awkward, jerking movements as she faltered. It was a special performance for the two as they have not danced together in several years, danced with great emotional gusto.
Stella Abrera was a cold-hearted Myrtra, ordering unsuspecting male trespassers to their deaths to extract revenge. This was one of the best I’ve seen in the role of Myrtra, danced with great authority. Her arms and wrists are so expressive, interpreting the music with each movement.
The corps delivered a fine performance. Notable were the chugs in arabesque in Act II, performed in unison.