The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s resurrection of Giselle is a revelation.
Ballet has moved on since the Romantic era, with companies such as Rambert and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures leading audiences to anticipate a ballet served with a contemporary, sexy edge - and fewer tutus and men in tights. How, then, would a very traditional, classical ballet go down with an audience retuned to a modern approach?
The story of Giselle is a fantasy fairytale. A young peasant girl, vibrant and innocent, falls into a state of madness and dies of a broken heart on discovering her lover is betrothed to another. In death she becomes one of the Wilis, an ethereal army of jilted young maidens who force any man unfortunate enough to wander, at night, across their path, to dance to their death. Giselle, eternally pure of spirit, saves her erstwhile lover’s life through the gift of her love and forgiveness, leaving him to anguish over the consequences of his actions and learn to live with his broken heart.
The storytelling, often so problematic in ballet, is beautifully clear in this production. The courtship of Giselle by Albrecht is touching, gentle and sincere. The first act in particular has a clarity of purpose that is unafraid of quiet moments and is a lesson in the maxim ‘less is more’. The dance steps, when they come, are meaningful and exquisitely executed. Lucy Green as Giselle is achingly vulnerable and her grace and elegance has the lightest of touches. In the second act, she and Mayu Tanigaito who dances Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, move as though floating, with backwards pas de bourees so fast their feet appear blurred. And Kohei Iwamoto as Albrecht causes the audience to break into spontaneous applause more than once with his breathtaking, relentless elevation and lightning footwork.
This ballet, with its traditional set, costumes, music and choreography, is pure escapism and utterly bewitching.
27th – 31st October