An escape from college reality with a breath of romanticism and passion.

Last Saturday night saw the Miller Theatre booming with lively crowds, whether that be the pre-show hassle of the crew, the last-minute refining of costumes and makeup of the night’s shiny stars, or the excitement and anticipation of the crowds that could be pleasantly felt from a mile away. It was my first time attending a performance in Barnumbia, and oh boy did the night not disappoint. From the professional look of the Miller Theatre to the execution of the ballet itself, I was blown away from the very start. By the time I got seated in front of the stage, the night had already promised to become a core memory.

One might find my approach to watching ballet performances quite peculiar: I never read the programme notes in advance. That way I really let the music, the movement and the atmosphere tell me a story of its own. After all, a good ballet production should succeed in conveying the message without the need of supplementary writing. Having read the programme notes after seeing the performance itself, I am very glad to conclude that CUBE’s Giselle got it just right  when it comes to storytelling.

The first act was booming with vivid liveliness of a small village, which was portrayed not only by the movement and emotions of the dancers, but also through amazing lightwork as well as colorful period costumes. Each piece seemed to have fit every single member of the cast just right, stressing each character’s individuality by enhancing the cast members’ own individuality. The costuming director Adara Allen (BC ’26) sure did a remarkable job in her field for this production. While the story was played out in a way that made it captivating to watch, the most impressive aspect of the performance was to me the strong sense of collaboration and community that was felt in every aspect of the ballet. Not only does it help portray a tight-knit village in a natural manner, but it also made me appreciate the product of CUBE’s collective hard work even further. It was beyond my capabilities to process that such a captivating performance was brought forth by university students in the timeframe of less than one semester. And although the ballet production was meant for people of all levels of experience to participate, each person’s contribution seamlessly integrated into the performance. 

The part of the night that I most appreciated, however, was the entirety of the second act. Dynamic, dramatic and utterly mesmerizing, the performance quickly grabbed my gaze and captivation and never let it go up until the end of the ballet. The movement of the dancers lightly framed by the gentle fabric of the costumes brought an ethereal sense of a night zephyr coming from a higher form of reality. The astonishing lightwork (credits to the lighting designer Fiona Bird (BC’25)!) really let the dancers shine, weaving the whole scene together with a light hand of otherworldly aura. This leads into my only point of negative criticism regarding the performance: because the lights around the stage were nowhere near being fully dimmed, it was hard to be fully immersed into the magic happening on stage. I really hope the next productions of CUBE will really let the craft of the stage lighting crew fully shine. 

While the overall excellence of the ballet was for sure birthed from collective artistry, some dance performances were especially remarkable in their technique and artistic expression. The leading roles of the ballet played by Catie McWilliams (BC’27) and Joshua Halevi (CC’26) (who somehow also managed to combine his ballet role with the role of being the assistant artistic director of the production!) stood out with their ability to convey the romanticism of Giselle’s and Albrecht’s love story through every movement, while Marlee Montgomery’s (BC’26) majestic and skillful performance as the Queen of Wilis absolutely captivated my mind with its impressive expertise as well as pierced my artistic heart with its aestheticism. Finally, the shiny star of the supporting cast Madalina Stoicov (BC’27) was there to move the audience with her careful sense of rhythm, admirable technique and emotional expression through dance.

Despite the minor flaws, the night I spent on attending CUBE’s performance of Giselle was ultimately an inspiring experience that even managed to alleviate the midterm stress by transporting the audience into a world of a different kind. I am very excited to see what the CUBE crew will come up with next semester! My boldest wish is to see a Barnumbia ballet performance in collaboration with a classical orchestra group, however I doubt that this is a realistic idea given the limited resources and timeframe available for a student club… or is it?

Giselle Performance Snapshot via Author