I first danced in the ballet Giselle during the spring of 2000, while apprenticing with the Colorado Ballet. Until then, my only experience with this ballet was watching a late 80’s version of the Bolshoi on an old grainy VHS. And to be 100% honest, I didn’t like it. As a dancer, I always enjoyed performing athletic and fast variations so I was naturally drawn to the more energetic ballets, like Don Quixote, Paquita,Coppelia, and Romeo and Juliet. While I appreciated the history, beauty, and technique of Giselle, as a ballet it just didn’t do it for me.
Until the spring of 2000 at Colorado Ballet.
I was cast as a Villager in Act 1 and a Willi in Act 2. I was thrilled to be dancing with “real” company members during Willi rehearsals. I looked up to the company ballerinas so much and learned a great deal from them in those practices about timing, spacing, and working together as a team. My excitement forGiselle continued to grow when I found out Colorado Ballet had rented the sets and costumes from American Ballet Theatre for their upcoming production. ABT’s costume manager came and personally fitted each one of us in our costumes and it made my day to see the names of the previous ABT dancers in the costume I would soon be wearing onstage.
At the theatre, we were given an extra surprise. The artistic staff had decided that the Willis needed to look more ethereal and ghostly. So, issued white body paint and large circle makeup sponge, we were told to completely pancake our face, neck, shoulders, chest, arms, armpits, back and hands WHITE! For 10 shows we painted ourselves during the intermission. Roars of laughter came from the dressing rooms as we transformed ourselves into ballerina “ghosts”. We looked quite ridiculous. But the audiences and critics loved the effect and I was thrilled to read the rave reviews on our dancing and our ghost make-up.
These were all special experiences that made Giselle more personal for me, but there was one moment that spring that dramatically changed my view on this ballet forever.
It was the first full run through we had as the company. Two of Colorado Ballet’s stars at the time, Maria Mosina and Igor Vassin, were rehearsing the lead roles of Giselle and Prince Albrecht. I was mesmerized as I watched them dance. Besides their amazing ballet technique, the drama and emotion these two projected was phenomenal. I got goose bumps watching Maria in the famous mad scene, and the entire ballet company, myself included was in tears by the end of Act 1. At the end of the ballet, when Igor walked Prince Albrecht’s heart breaking diagonal upstage, I was bawling. And at that moment I knew I had completely fallen in love with Giselle.
Watching this rehearsal had evoked such raw, heartfelt, and deep emotions within me. That is when I realized why Giselle is, and always will remain, a classic and favorite to ballet audiences. This romantic story attaches itself to the viewers heart and soul, making them ask themselves how far they would go and how much they would risk for true love.
Once at the bottom of my favorite ballet list, Giselle definitely has worked its way up. I am truly looking forward to Festival Ballet Theatre’s production on March 22 and 23. Gillian Murphy and Cory Stearns are incredible dancers and actors so I hope that during these performances another young ballerina will also have a change of heart and fall in love with Giselle.