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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

If you were to predict who might become a nationally famous – OK, world-famous – multiplatform sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer would probably not be your first choice. Born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel, the 4’7” Dr. Ruth seems more like the doting Jewish grandmother she is than a woman who used her nationally syndicated radio show, TV shows and 40-some books to help hun..

Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer Prize for “Topdog/Underdog” in 2002. But as Zoetic Stage’s superb new production of the play at Miami’s Arsht Center demonstrates, her funny, shocking tale of two brothers struggling to survive is as potent today as it was 15 years ago. Maybe more so, given the country’s deepening divide. Parks’ harrowing drama examines the complex relation..

We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

Miami City Ballet Premieres With Classic Romantic ‘Giselle’


Photo: Ella Titus, Miami City Ballet dancers in Giselle. Photo © Alberto Oviedo.
Written by: Guillermo Perez
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Carlotta Grisi, the legendary ballerina who originated the role of Giselle in 19th-century Paris, must be smiling down on Lauren Fadeley from dance heaven.Portraying the eponymous heroine of Giselle, the most celebrated French ballet, can well be considered the zenith of any career. And not only did Fadeley get to perform this in 2012, on her first time out as a principal at Pennsylvania Ballet, but now she’s ready to re-conquer the part as a newly-hired soloist at Miami City Ballet.

“This is such an iconic role,” the ballerina says, “it’s both exciting and a little nerve wracking to prove myself in it all over again.”

All its demands included, this providential casting has come as an unexpected blessing for Fadeley. Unlike so many aspiring ballerinas, she had not set her eyes on the special prize early on.“I didn’t grow up with this ballet,” admits Fadeley. “It just wasn’t in my reach.”

Lacking exposure to productions of Giselle in Orlando, her hometown, she went on to train at the School of American Ballet, a greenhouse for the Balanchine style. Work then followed as a corps member at New York City Ballet, where neoclassical abstractions predominate—not exactly a straight shoot for the lead in a historic narrative ballet. Still, there were signs Fadeley might be headed in this direction.

“Without knowing the story behind it, I fell in love with Giselle’s music when I heard it on tape as a girl,” says Fadeley, amused to think of the steps she came up with to Adolphe Adam’s score—sunny and tender, eerie and lush—on the porch of her childhood home.

Moreover, when Fadeley left her position at NYCB to get a degree at Indiana University—an unorthodox move for a ballerina already on a professional tract—she had the good fortune to come in contact with Violette Verdy. This French-born luminary danced for years at NYCB before becoming the first woman to direct the Paris Opera Ballet. Verdy authored Giselle: A Role of a Lifetime, an intimate and all-embracing study whose pages Fadeley learned to treasure.

With a libretto partially inspired by a passage from Heinrich Heine referencing the Wilis, a band of spectral maidens who, decked out in wedding white, dance hapless men to death, Giselle calls upon the lead to deal out conduct from the earthy to the supernatural. She must adorn rusticity in the first-act village scenes, perfumed by her love for the duplicitous Albrecht, and then take wing in the second act’s haunted forest as a reluctant Wili, ethereal yet resolute in shielding her remorseful deceiver from doom.

“Verdy showed there are so many elements in this ballet. Every time you do it, you go on a different ride,” Fadeley says.

The choreography in Giselle, by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli, contains many stirring passages, but few pack as much force as Giselle’s pre-death mad scene—comparable to Ophelia’s in Hamlet—after she finds out Albrecht is betrothed to a noblewoman. “Of course, there are choreographic guidelines for this,” Fadeley explains about Giselle’s circling, lunging, and swooning, “but dancers bring differences to it. You really have to be in the moment for it to look authentic.”

Each dancer rehearsing Giselle—a group that interestingly cuts across ranks, from principal to soloist, at MCB —will no doubt put her own stamp on the role. But all had a chance to profit from the insights offered by Evelyn Hart, once a superlative Giselle at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, who coached the casts in intensive sessions.

“She’s amazing—what an artist!” enthuses principal Tricia Albertson, another lead in the lineup. While experienced in previous productions of Giselle at MCB (the company’s first was in 2002, staged by then ballet mistress Eve Lawson and principal Eric Quilleré), Albertson appreciates her new gains from Hart’s capacity to convey thoughts behind actions in the ballet, which enhance the dramatic context. “She brings in so many sides, it renews the narrative. This really helped me explore the character.”

Those preparatory sessions also enriched Jovani Furlan’s approach to Albrecht. The soloist has a shorter resumé than Fadeley and Albertson, but he certainly has no shortage of passion and industry. About his first-time match-up with Fadeley, he says, “We really clicked! She’s such an expressive dancer, it makes it easier to read her body. There’s an on-going dialog in our heads that lets the ballet speak.”

In his initiation as the male lead in MCB’s Giselle, Furlan found that Hart’s pointers allowed him to shape a more profound characterization.

“Albrecht grew up in a rigid life among royalty,” Furlan reflects, “and Giselle, pure and naïve, takes him on a different journey.” The dancer recognizes the nobleman in disguise may be played as irresponsible and self-indulgent, but he prefers a more sympathetic take. “He doesn’t really want to bring harm. And love can make you do such crazy things! Sure, there’s pain and guilt, but … since Giselle saves Albrecht, he’s been forgiven and can live to become a better man.”

Going through the crucible of a scary night in the woods not only transforms the character but—with all its technical requirements—also the dancer. As Furlan has seen, “Keeping up my stamina is a big part of this.” At the end, he admits, he hardly has to pretend he’s nearly danced to complete exhaustion.

Fadeley, too, comes away from the ballet feeling the impact of its final scenes. Their intensity can be draining, and she must find the calm that performance craft brings in an emotional whirlwind. “You really get into the zone,” says Fadeley—and sums up the ballet’s transcendent quality with a simple phrase: “It’s so beautiful.”

‘Giselle’ runs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Arsht Center for Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; tickets $20-$99. It moves to Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Nov. 5-6; www.miamicityballter.org.

 



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