Aara Krumpe danced with Ballet Austin for 20 seasons.
Christopher Swaim danced with Ballet Austin for 15 seasons.
They danced together for the last time as company members taking on Giselle and Albrecht during the Sunday matinee of “Giselle” at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.
In the happy/sad way of ballet, they were sent off with fervent cheers, bouquets of flowers, obvious respect from their colleagues and, with a few tears from me. Especially during Krumpe’s madness/death scene, then during Swaim’s final collapse at Giselle’s grave. Interestingly, both of their characters dance themselves to the brink of death.
Krumpe has been at the forefront of the company for almost her entire time with Ballet Austin. A striking dancer, she’s also a powerful actor. We would-be balletomanes — you could hear our extra-loud cheers at the back of the house — always looked forward to her ineradicable performances.
Likeable even when playing villainous roles, Swaim often combined humor with long-limbed nimbleness. He radiated authenticity, so much so that I momentarily forgot Albrecht’s duplicity as he wooed Giselle in the first act.
I should say that Swaim and Krumpe were not alone on the stage. Jaime Lynn Witts, for instance, displayed flawless technique along with frosty demeanor as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis. The corps de ballet was never so magnificently unified as supporting Witts during this act from the underworld.
There was something else to treasure about this Mother’s Day matinee — the extraordinary normalcy of it all. If you live in an older, bigger city, you have the luxury of catching an old favorite like this one — my first Giselle was Margot Fonteyn in the early 1970s! — on a regular basis. It becomes conventional.
Not in Austin, at least not until recently. Austin’s arts groups have now managed to attract wide attention for the new, but they continue to venerate the old. Fans like me adore both.
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