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The Sarasota Ballet performed Sir Peter Wright’s 'Giselle,' accompanied by the Sarasota Orchestra at the Sarasota Opera House.

The Sarasota Ballet audience has become accustomed to the company’s triple bill performances. The 2018 — 2019 season included such programs featuring works by iconic choreographers George Balanchine to Sir Frederick Ashton to Martha Graham and many more, but to finish off the season with a full-length ballet was a welcome surprise. That ballet was Sir Peter Wright’s “Giselle,” performed April 26 and 27 at the Sarasota Opera House accompanied by the Sarasota Orchestra.

“Giselle” is the quintessential romantic ballet. It’s a story of love, betrayal and redemption told through steps and mime in two acts. Giselle, a young peasant girl, falls in love with Count Albrecht, who is disguised as a peasant. When Giselle discovers Albrecht is already engaged to Bathilde at the end of act one, she loses her mind and eventually dies of a broken heart. Act two is set near Giselle’s grave where she reappears as a spirit, sharing a brief reunion with Albrecht before leaving him helpless and alone.

The company first performed Wright’s production in 2009. Ten years later, the corps de ballet is more refined and the dancers who reprised their roles are infused with dramatic detail and technical brilliance. The cast for Friday evening featured Victoria Hulland and Ricardo Graziano as the tragic lovers, Giselle and Albrecht. Hulland was delicate and curious in act one. She convincingly fell in love with Albrecht but had subtle moments of pain from a weak heart. Graziano played a striking and direct Albrecht, partnering Hulland with nuance and strength. In Wright’s version, the traditional Peasant pas de deux is a pas de six and is a highlight of the first act. Kate Honea and Thomas Giugovaz led the six dancers with sprightly jumps and crisp footwork. Ricki Bertoni was superb in the role of Hilarion, Giselle’s rejected suitor.

Myrta, queen of the Wilis (a group of female spirits who were betrayed before their death), was performed by Amy Wood on Friday evening. Wood floated across the stage and executed a solo with authority and precision before calling the Wilis to initiate Giselle. The corps de ballet of Wilis were perfectly synchronized with a beautiful breath of movement. Hulland was ethereal in act two, emoting love and forgiveness towards Graziano. The ending is bittersweet — Giselle encourages Albrecht to dance until dawn and the Wilis retreat. However, she returns to her grave leaving him alone on stage as the curtain closes.

The evening ended with a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd. Congratulations to the Sarasota Ballet on another remarkable season!

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