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Neglia Ballet stars soar in 'Giselle'

Ballet has its own set of rules for communicating emotion to the audience.

Broad gestures indicate a character's feelings, while synchronized movements from the corps of dancers provide visual textures upon which a solo or duet may be counter-imposed -- if necessary -- for an emotional contrast.

Choreography becomes a director's palette.

One of the cornerstones of dance's historical repertoire is "Giselle" by the 19th century Frenchman Adolphe Adam. The crux of the story line lies with the second act, which takes place in a graveyard and involves the ghosts of jilted fiances who've died before marriage, former lovers and would-be former lovers.

This segment of "Giselle" was also the cornerstone for the Neglia Ballet Artists' performance with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Artpark on Friday evening. It was a showcase for the ballet company's principal dancers -- Sherri Campagni as Giselle, the peasant girl and Sergio Neglia as Albrecht, the princely cad who falls for Giselle despite being engaged to someone else.

Tomasz Kumor danced the role of Hilarion, a man who loved Giselle before Albrecht even came on the scene, while Erin Bahn was demonstrably and rightfully eerie as Myrtha, the queen of all those jilted maidens.

Robert Franz led a pit orchestra-sized version of the Buffalo Philharmonic through a score which, despite being a choreographic classic that has pleased balletomanes for well over a century, is generally memorable only because of how it influences the action up on the stage.

While "Giselle" filled the entirety of the dance concert's second half, the first half may have lacked drama when compared straight up with the finale, but its charms were undeniable.

Heidi Halt, the troupe's resident choreographer, created a fairly interesting set of moves for a pair of young dancers to go along with one of Antonio Vivaldi's many violin concertos. Part of the success for this collaboration is due to the efforts of Franz and the orchestra.

Speaking of which, the conductor and his musicians were front and center in a delicious rendition of Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite No. 1." The first movement, "Morning Mood," has often been used in cartoons to depict a sunrise over some bucolic landscape. It was a lean performance of a lush score that somehow managed to work well.

Franz and company's performance of the other three movements alternated sonorously tragic writing for strings ("Ase's Death"), exotically pointed rhythms ("Anitra's Dance") and frightening bombast ("In the Hall of the Mountain King").



Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

With Neglia Ballet Artists on Friday night in Artpark Mainstage Theater.

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