Downtown Santa Barbara was packed with entertainment lovers Wednesday night as both the Granada Theatre and Arlington Theatre experienced simultaneous sold-out events. While Oprah Winfrey was getting feted by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington, UCSB Arts & Lectures sold every seat at the Granada with the debut of the Royal New Zealand Ballet in a performance of the beloved ballet classic Giselle.
“This performance is as good as anything I have seen in New York,” enthused bicoastal (New York/Santa Barbara) resident Eva Haller, who along with her husband, Yoel, were one of the sponsors of the stellar performance.
The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2014 U.S. tour marks the first time the company has appeared stateside in more than two decades. NZRB celebrated its 60th anniversary last year; the company was founded in 1953 and is currently based at Wellington’s St. James Theatre.
Other sponsors included Heather and Tom Sturgess, Genevieve and Lew Geyser, and Margo Cohen-Feinberg and Bob Feinberg.
The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s critically acclaimed new staging of the classical Giselle was "en pointe" with choreography by dance greats Ethan Stiefel (formerly of the American Ballet Theatre) and Johan Kobborg (formerly of Britain’s Royal Ballet).
Prima ballerina Gillian Murphy, acclaimed principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, made an appearance as principal guest artist in the title role — one of the most dramatic and challenging in classical ballet repertory.
Stiefel facilitated a question-and-answer session following the performance and spoke about the difference between a dancer and an artistic director.
“As a director, I am constantly making decisions which is different from a dancer who takes direction,” he said.
When asked how he keeps the life in a classic like Giselle, he said, “We edit and clearly support the narrative and momentum.”
A prolonged standing ovation ended the two-act performance. Along with Murphy’s outstanding dancing, Abigail Boyle’s regal and athletic performance as Berthe and Qi Huan’s spectacular role as Albrecht were the toppers for a company that has achieved a pinnacle of artistic success in their U.S. tour.
A reception for sponsors and VIPs followed the Q&A in the Granada’s Founders Room, where guests mingled with the amazing dancers.
Giselle was first staged in Paris in 1841. It is one of the oldest surviving ballets still in the international repertory. The music by Adolphe Adam (1803-56) is one of the first full-length ballet scores ever composed.
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— Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.