Ako Kondo as Giselle

From her first entrance as a young woman in love, until her last steps towards her grave, Ako Kondo was clearly in the moment as she told the tale of Giselle, a tale that ends in madness then forgiveness.

On the opening night of the Australian Ballet’s season of Giselle in Sydney, her stage presence, warmth, charm and poignancy all combined in a way that meant most, if not all the audience could relate to the vulnerability and despair of a woman betrayed.

In Giselle, that’s imperative.

Of all the Giselles I’ve seen there’s only one other dancer who, in my opinion, has matched Kondo’s acting and believability.

The other is Alina Cojocaru who performed the role during the Royal Ballet’s season in Sydney in 2000. At the time she was 19.

John Neumeier, the artistic director of the Hamburg Ballet, has described Cojocaru as “the method dancer of all time. She is really a choreographer’s dancer”. In other words she follows the Stanislavsky method in which the actor puts herself or himself in the place of the character.

Apart from her own interpretation of Giselle, Kondo has been coached in the role from 2015, first by Maina Gielgud and Fiona Tonkin.

I recently read that she was coached this year by Leanne Benjamin, the Australian dancer and former principal of the Royal Ballet.

Kondo’s technique is evident throughout the ballet, in particular her batterie, jumps and extensions but perhaps the most powerful moment of her Giselle was the way she depicted her transformation from fear to madness.

The moment came in the mad scene when she stood stock-still, facing upstage, as if she knew her life would soon come to an end.

The season at the Sydney Opera House will end on 18 May. The Australian Ballet casting shows that Ako Kondo as Giselle with Chengwu Guo as Albrecht will dance on 7,9,14 and 18 May.

This post is focused only on Ako Kondo and is not a review of the ballet.

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