The Cullberg Ballet 1987
Choreography by Mats EK
Orchestre National de Monte-Carlo
Conductor Richard Bonynge
Marie-Louise de Geer Bergenstrahle
- Ana Laguna as Giselle
- Luc Bouy
- Yvan Auzely as Hilarion
- Vanessa McIntosh as Bathilde
- Lena Wennergren as Myrtha
Not for the staid traditionalist, Matts EK's ballet turns expectations on their head. The basic story is there; and Adolphe Adam's unmistakable music guides us through. But there the similarities end.
Set in a more modern era, Albrecht is a city sophisticate to Giselle's rural innocent. And innocent she is, but far from the shy creature of yore, this Giselle is precocious, almost uninhibited. But there's no suggestion that this excuses Albrecht's use and abuse of her. The 'white' act is very different, too. Set in a lunatic asylum, the choreography will be earily famiar to anyone who has visited one of those places (or even seen One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest).
Act 1 in fact is a fairly conventional retelling of the story, minus some of the peripheral roles, but with other roles expanded. Giselle’s mother does not appear, but Batilde and Hilarion are given rather more prominence, and the effect is to broaden out the story and to make us aware of the damage done to other protagonists, not just Giselle. For once, the peasants actually look like people who are used to hard manual work - no light hearted dancing around all day for them. The aristocrats are costumed in evening dress, and the tension between them and the peasantry is quite palpable: there is no deference here, just a sullen resentment.
It’s still difficult at times to watch without memories of the traditional Giselle flashing across your mind, particularly at pivotal moments. Ek can and does make beautiful phrases, and the dancers are excellent: but he can also make movements which seem quite deliberately twisted and ugly, like Hilarion’s wriggling across the stage on his hands and feet towards the aristocrats, done to the lovely movement of Giselle’s hopping variation.
version of a live performance review by Lynette Halewood