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Read: Giselle is a sensual and colourful exploration of the human soul

For those new to classical ballet it can be a little unusual to see the the conspicuous gesturing, and overt postures of the dancers, but what the uninitiated may not realise is that this art form traces its lineage back to the 1400s. So there is a rich history being played out on stage even if a particular ballet is more recent in origin. 

Ballet, for me, is like watching an alchemistic process take place, one that draws me into an elaborate fantasy. At the core is a simple story that illustrates the fundamental nature of human relationships. 

Because these productions have no dialogue the dancers have to tell the story through movement and facial expression. The intricacies of the motion has become stylised and in my opinion quite beautiful. 

So what of Giselle? Originally performed in 1841, it is the romantic yet tragic story of the eponymous maiden and her beau Albrecht. This is a tale of love, joy, jealousy, death, and redemption.  

Each character represents human archetypes and values, but in this production by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, they are never caricatures. While their emotions are definitely on view, the talented cast of dancers bring nuances to their roles that are refreshing and exciting. 

Mayu Tanigaito as Giselle is a breathtaking wonder who brings a naive sweetness and also a hint of grave instability to the role. Her flawless dancing and expressive face draws your eye to wherever she is on set. In act one, she is at first a demure ball of excited energy, lost in love. But that mood darkens at the end of the act and she delivers a compelling and emotionally raw vignette as the curtain closes for intermission. In the second act, the sweetness has all gone, turned instead to a sombre restlessness. It is electrifying. 

Giselle is pursued by two men, the dashing Albrecht (Laurynas Vėjalis) and the love-lorn Hilarion (Paul Mathews). These two accomplished performers provide one of the more amusing parts of the night when they compete in the ballet equivalent of a ‘dance off.’ 

Giselle is beautifully staged – the sets in both acts are exquisite, the lighting and special effects create the perfect mood throughout. The music by Adolph Adam is glorious and in my city, performed with panache by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. 

I must make a special mention of the impeccably constructed costumes designed by Natalia Stewart. The colours, fit, and styling were gorgeous. From the regency period attire of the rich to the sublime pastel shades of the village maiden’s skirts, each outfit suited the characters perfectly. Best of all, when those maidens danced, the dresses floated along with them as though they were alive – mesmerising! 

This Giselle is a sensual, vibrant and colourful exploration of our basic desires and it lays before us both the darkness and lightness within our souls. 

GISELLE 

Remaining season

Auckland 27 – 29 May 2021

Christchurch 4 – 5 June 2021

Tickets and more information. 

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