Antonia Hewitt's willowy grace and long, fluid lines make for an ethereal Wilis, of captivating power and other-worldly beauty, in the second half of the RNZB's new production of Giselle. Her partner, guest artist Andrew Bowman, more truly falls under her spell here.
Their initial courtship seems brief, taking place against a backdrop of cavorting peasant life, with Giselle a village girl enthralled by Albrecht, a local nobleman masquerading as a more suitable beau.
But when she discovers his true identity and even meets his existing fiancee, she dies of a broken heart in a perfectly judged and touching mad scene.
In the second act, Giselle is buried, her spirit committed to an afterlife as one of the Wilis, a band of vengeful young women, jilted in love.
When Hilarion, her village suitor, danced in fiery fashion by the dark and handsome Dimitri Kleioris, visits the grave to mourn his loss, he is danced to death by the Wilis, led by the powerful and precise Lucy Balfour as Myrtha.
When Albrecht also comes to the gravesite, he faces the same fate. But Giselle emerges in love and forgiveness and they finally dance with a deep and affecting emotional connection - and a series of breathtaking, floating, magical, gorgeous lifts, the beating heart of the work.
In a new twist on this most romantic of the Romantic Ballets, we see Albrecht in both prologue and epilogue as an old man, consumed by his grief and guilt. Balletomanes with an intimate knowledge might miss some of the more usual solos and duets.
But the result, in the expert hands of Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel, is a tight and gripping recounting of a poetic tale, making up for any lack of embellishment with the whole company in splendid form, delivering great characterisations and superb dancing.By Bernadette Rae