Giselle - The Ballet

Dance Theater of Harlem, 1988

 
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Creole Giselle

Dance Theater of Harlem 1988

Choreography: Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa, restaged by Frederick Franklin.

creole-giselle

The Dancers

  • Virginia Johnson as Giselle Lanaux
  • Eddie J Shellman as Albert Monet-Cloutier
  • Lorraine Graves as Myrtha
  • Lowell Smith as Hilarion Guidry
  • Cassandra Phifer as Madame Berthe Lanaux

The Ballet

Arthur Mitchell's production transposes the action to Louisiana in the 1940s. Revised scenario by Arthur Mitchell and Carl Michel. Staged by Frederick Franklin, Dance Theatre of Harlem. This performance of the ballet was recorded in Arthus, Denmark, and featured the Danish Radio Concert Orchestra, conducted by Tadeusz Wojciechowsk.

The first performance, at the London Coliseum on July 18, 1984, received the prestigious "Olivier" award - British equivalent of the U.S. "Tony" - as the most outstanding dance production during 1984. In December 1987, the production was telecast by NBC-TV. Video release followed in 1988.

Reviews

This version of Giselle is an excellent performance by all involved and beautifully produced in Denmark. This is one of the few versions where you can actually see the peasant pas de deux in its entirety. The clarity of the DVD lets you see the facial expressions much better and the acting comes through better because of that.

If you are wondering if Creole Giselle is different in any way from the usual Giselle, the answer is no, it is not. The only noticeable difference might be in the costumes, but it is only slight. I asked Eddie Shellman why Arthur Mitchell wanted to make a Creole Giselle rather than a standard version, and he said that he wanted to do it that way to gain more acceptance of this performance. In any event, you need not worry that this is some radical departure from the usual Giselle. The difference is not noticeable.

Edited version of a review by J. M. Wilinsky (USA).

I was so pleased to find this wonderful adaptation of Giselle on DVD. I was first introduced to this version at about eight years old, and the memory of this production has stayed with me for over twelve years, as well as helped shape my dancing career. The adaptation of the ballet is a masterpiece, and is beautifully danced, especially by Virginia Johnson. This video is a real find, a great addition to any ballet enthusiasts collection, and a excellent way to introduce ballet to kids, especially African American children.

Edited version of a review by Rosabellarina (USA).

"Beautifully danced by black dancers (a refreshing change from the regular staple of Caucasian dancers). The dancers lyrically emoted their thoughts and feelings; I didn't see a single 'dancing stiff' in that production. Multiple cameras were used to capture correctly the movements from the best angles, so that the viewer feels as if they were sitting front-and-center the entire time. The stage props truly framed the context of a deep South black peasant community. Definitely pre-Civil War when there were already free blacks who had their own black servants and class strata. Did I mention that the Peasant Pas de Deux was one of the high points of this ballet?"

Edited version of a review by Agnes (USA).

The Production

Director: Thomas Grimm
Set Design: Carl Michel, Ves Harper
Costume design: Carl Michel

Conversion to DVD has meant a washed-out colour, to some extent, and poor sound in places.

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How To Buy This DVD

 

Exerpt from the ballet - please note the DVD quality is far superior to this video, which appears to have been taken from an old VHS video - but it does give a flavor of the real thing!

Virginia Johnson discusses Dance Theatre of Harlem's Giselle

30 November 2016 | Copyright Andrew Heenan | | Privacy