Chung, corps triumphant in S.F. Ballet’s ‘Giselle’

Charming while alive, a true heroine in death, Giselle fascinates. The peasant girl who dies of a broken heart, only to save the life of her lover from beyond the grave, is every ballerina’s dream role.

Since its premiere in Paris 174 years ago, the great romantic story ballet “Giselle” has been in repertories around the world. San Francisco Ballet’s 2015 revival of artistic director Helgi Tomasson’s 1999 production alternates seven ballerinas in the coveted and challenging title role.

At Saturday’s matinee in the War Memorial, Frances Chung debuted as Giselle, triumphing both as the first act’s playful, passionate (and eventually tragic) girl in love with Duke Albrecht (who disguises himself as a young man from the village), and as the second act’s ethereal, yet resolute, forest spirit. The role requires impeccable technique and great acting. Chung in her first performance had both, easily managing tasks described in program notes: “difficult footwork, balances and virtuoso sequences” and “looking otherworldly, weightless and serene.”

She displayed ballon, with repeated elastic jumps in which she seemingly paused in the air before landing softly; her elévation in entrechats and grands jetés appeared effortless.

Both Chung and the tall, elegant Australian Luke Ingham (as Albrecht) made their characters’ transitions seamless. In the first act, Ingham was convincingly irresponsible, deceptively flirting and hiding his position and engagement to the duke’s daughter. In the second act, he was full of regret, deeply remorseful and genuinely grieving.

Sasha De Sola as the Queen of the Wilis (young women who died before their wedding day and spend eternity dancing), displayed a properly icy demeanor and solid technique. James Sofranko danced Hilarion, the gamekeeper in love with Giselle who unmasks Albrecht’s masquarade.

Clara Blanco, Lauren Parrott, Julia Roew, Max Cauthorn and Diego Cruz were splendid in the Act 1 peasant pas de cinq.

Likewise, members of the corps de ballet clearly were up to the heavy demands of the famous white second act; the performance was one of the most flawless seen here in many years.

Charles Barker conducted the durable Adolphe Adam score, one of ballet’s best-known and most appropriate for dance.



Presented by San Francisco Ballet

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 3, Feb. 6 and Feb. 10; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4, 2 p.m. Feb. 8

Tickets: $39 to $365, standing room tickets are $20

Contact: (415) 865-2000,

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