Giselle Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome
21 June 2013
What have I done?
What have I done?
How could I be so blind?
All is lost, where was I?
Spoiled all, spoiled all
Everything’s gone all wrong

Jack Skellington from Nightmare before Christmas

After seeing Coppélia only a couple weeks ago, it felt strange going back to see another ballet so soon, even stranger to realize that it was the last one in our season of tickets. It felt like a year had passed in a blink of an eye, and yet here we were. Lynne was especially excited to see this ballet, as it was one she had always wanted to see (and she prefers the tragedies).

The story of Giselle is about the ill fated love of Giselle. The Count Albrecht is on a trip and he disguises himself as a villager named Loys to make the trip easier. Disguised as the villager Loys, Albrecht flirts with Giselle, a village girl, and she falls in love with him. At the same time, another suitor for Giselle, Hilarion, is suspicious and jealous of Loys and warns Giselle not to trust Loys. Albrecht convinces Giselle to dance with him, and then gives her a flower. She plays, ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ with the petals, and is horrified when the flower predicts a bad fate for her. Albrecht attempts to sooth her, but is interrupted by Hilarion and Giselle’s mother, both of whom try to warn Giselle against trusting Loys and to marry Hilarion instead. Then a hunting party arrives, and in it is Princess Bathilde (Albrecht’s fiancé) and her father. During the party for their arrival, Hilarion breaks into Albrecht’s hut and finds a sword that proves Albrecht is not who he says he is. Giselle does not believe Hilarion when he tells her, not until the hunting party bows to Albrecht and Bathilde kisses her fiancé. Devastated, Giselle kills herself.

Act II starts with Hilarion visiting Giselle’s grave, which is out in the woods since she committed a deadly sin in taking her own life. However, his mourning is interrupted by a troupe of Wilis, spirits of women jilted on the eve of their weddings. Lead by their Queen, Myrtha, they seek revenge by dancing to death any man they encounter. Hilarion runs off. Giselle is awakened and welcomed by the Wilis, but they disappear at the arrival of Albrecht to Giselle’s grave. While he is grieving, he sees Giselle, and tries to catch her, but she flees. He begs for forgiveness, and Giselle grants it to him. Hilarion re-enters pursued by the Wilis, and they dance him to death. The Wilis turn to Albrecht, but he begs Myrtha to let him live, and Giselle also pleads for them to let him go. Myrtha will not allow it, and Albrecht is made to dance, but Giselle tries to save him. The sun rises, and Giselle’s love has saved Albrecht, but there is nothing he can do to save her. He returns her body to her grave, and she is released from the world and ascends to heaven.

The music and the choreography were better than Coppélia, however it was clearly not as funny. The first thing we noticed about the ballet was that while there were elements of the set that were from the Coppélia ballet, the stage crew had created a whole new country village, and again it was absolutely breathtaking. The second act, however, was different from what we expected, as it was not set out in the middle of the woods as it should have been, but instead in a church yard. While the backdrop was beautiful, the scene was a bit sparse, with only hints of where they were. We enjoyed the first act more as the story was a bit more coherent and easy to follow. In the second act, Hilarion had removed his hat so it was difficult to recognise when Hilarion or Albrecht was on stage. Frances thought Albrecht had died until Albrecht appeared on stage alive. It was only then that she realised it was Hilarion who had died.

The other thing we noticed very early on was that the dancer for Albrecht was the same dancer for Aladdin. Unfortunately we had not been that impressed with him in Aladdin, noting in that ballet he seemed to struggle with the partner work. Giselle is filled with partner work for Albrecht, and this dancer was clearly out danced by the Giselle dancer. Also with the actual story of the ballet it is hard to like Albrecht and there was nothing that really endeared him to us.  I think we would have preferred him to die at the end, instead of Hilarion.

Giselle looked like the dancer who played Cinderella, and we were again impressed by her. She has some interesting choreography in the first act, where she was allowed to do some amazing solo leaps that really outshone Albrecht’s. She was able to portray a girl falling quickly in love, and then being driven mad by the revelation that he cannot be with her. However, her death scene did take forever; she danced for another 5 minutes after she stabbed herself with Albrecht’s sword.

In the village scenes there was another country couple that had a long dance. It was a bit long, but fun to watch. The male in the couple was absolutely beaming the whole time he danced, and it was rather adorable. We both felt that he would have made a better Albrecht. Our guess is that he hasn’t had a leading dance before. Even though he had a small stumble, it was still interesting. The main problem with this dance is that it didn’t really seem to fit with the rest of the story. It was rather random.

The men’s tights particularly bothered us in this ballet. Although the tights bothered us in Coppélia, nowhere near to the same extent as Giselle.. Many of the men had taupe coloured tights. While this sounds alright in theory, when they are under the stage lights they become a sort of Caucasian flesh colour. In the end, some of the men ended up looking like half naked Ken dolls. The male dancer in country couple who danced in the village was the worst case of this. We had a bit of a chuckle over this, but it was rather distracting.

Other than the male’s tights, the costumes were very well done again. The village girls had beautiful skirts, however some of the colours were a bit strange. The best though were the Wilis, their dresses were beautiful. Most of them started by dancing under sheer sheets, it gave the illusion of a mixed shroud and wedding veil, which was probably the point. The dresses were made of various tattered white cloths. It was a bit hard at times to keep track of which one was Giselle or Myrtha. However, on closer inspection Giselle’s skirt was cut flat at the bottom, where as all the rest had tattered edges.

We were more impressed with the group dances in this ballet than some of the previous ballets. The dancers seemed to be better synchronised, with better shapes to their sets. Our favourite dancer, Tyrone (who we saw as the Prince in Cinderella), was in the cast for this ballet. However, we were sad that again he seemed to have to hold back in order to keep time with the other males. He has such powerful leaps, and is taller than most of the other male dancers, so it is clear he can do much better. Fingers crossed that he has more solo dances next season.

Overall this was a good ballet to end the season tickets on. It was one of the evening shows, which we have not attended very many of. It was better than Coppélia and Aladdin, but parts of it were not as good as Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast.

Final Verdict: A beautiful ballet, and a good way to end a season of ballet tickets.

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