The hot cast to see in San Francisco Ballet?s ?Giselle? last week was Tina LeBlanc and Gonzalo Garcia. I caught them Friday night. I wasn?t reviewing, wasn?t under pressure to analyze, and so I got to be swept away along with the standing ovation crowd. This was the most moved I?d ever been by ?Giselle,? and I?ve seen it umpteen times (though my ?umpteen? is admittedly smaller than that of more veteran critics).

Tina LeBlanc is a generous, warm actress, and this is a role where her diminutive height serves her well. She?s a fleet and fluttery village girl in the first act, playing her mad scene with pathos and restraint. In the second act, her petite stature and tender demeanor mark her as a fresh inductee into the Wilis? society of ghosts. Just as touching as her performance was the way she?s taken still-young Garcia under her wing. LeBlanc is one of the company?s senior ballerinas, and Garcia is infinitely blessed by her patience toward him. In the second act, when Giselle reappears behind her grave and begins ladling lilies in Albrecht?s arms, there was a poignant reality behind the fantasy: A dead love heaping compassion upon her betrayer, but also one dancer offering the lessons of her artistry to another.

Their acting seemed a true collaboration rather than a collision of dramatic styles. Garcia played Albrecht rakishly and with deep remorse. The clarity of their mime made a striking contrast with Kristin Long and Guennadi Nedviguine, the cast I saw Wednesday night. With Long and Nedviguine, the gestures were broad and empty, more like cue cards to keep the action moving than like dialogue. With LeBlanc and Garcia, it looked like they had worked out every last word of what they were saying to each other, and the language seemed to hover in the air.

This was a strong cast all around: Katita Waldo was ravishing as Myrtha, Elizabeth Miner stood out as a solo Wili, and Peter Brandenhoff played Hilarion with a chump?s charm.

Allan Ulrich reviewed LeBlanc and Garcia?s Sunday matinee performance, while Janice Berman reviewed opening night?s pairing of Yuan Yuan Tan and Pierre-Francois Vilanoba.

UPDATE: Paul Parish considers the finer details of Kristin Long’s performance for the DanceView Times.

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