Kicking off Butler ArtsFest 2013, Butler Ballet offered up a fine interpretation of the mid-19th century Romantic work inspired a Heinrich Heine poem about the Willis, supernatural beings that lure men to dance to their death, and set in the Rhineland during the Middle Ages. Alluring music by Adolphe Adam provides the perfect dimensional zing for the pervasive atmosphere created by librettists by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Theophile Gautier.
At the April 19 opening performance, through finely etched pantomime and dancing technique, senior ballet students Danielle Morano, Justin Metcalf-Burton, Matthew Doolin, Loren Williams, Anna Peters and Morgan Sicklick, and sophomore Cameron Clark were totally engrossing in their leading roles, unfolding the story of a young girl falling in love with Albrecht, a Count disguised as a peasant.
Morano embodied Giselle with an enchanting mix of innocence, independence and impetuousness, brushing off warnings from her mother (a stern Williams) and Hilarion (a proprietary Metcalf-Burton). Albrecht, embodied by Doolin as heartbreakingly conflicted, equally paid no attention to the protestations of his squire (a forcefully subservient Clark). The breadth of the harm he has caused sinks in when Albrecht's fiancée Bathilde (the regal Peters) appears and Giselle defies the Queen of the Wilis (a menacing Sicklick) to save his life. Guest artist James Cramer was the aristocratic Duke.
Engaging dancing and characterization by the large corps of dancers merits praise along with the fine orchestra conducted by Richard Auldon Clark. The production was by Marek Cholewa, Michelle Jarvis, Michael J. Johnson, Stephan Laurent and Derek Reid from original choreography by Jules Perot and Jean Coralli. Kathleen Egan's costumes, Anthony Bauer's lighting and the scenery courtesy of Louisville Ballet were noteworthy.