Alexis FletcherBallet BC

Dates and Venue 25 - 27 April 2013, 8pm | Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Reviewer Nancie Ottem

Thursday April 25th was the world premiere of Giselle, choreographed by Jose Navas, the resident choreographer of Ballet BC. Navas was asked to create a new version of Giselle for Ballet BC. Giselle is a ballet that was originally created in 1841, a period of romanticism. The ballet took its original inspiration from the works of Victor Hugo and a poem by Heinrich Heine. In its original version, Giselle is a peasant girl who is forbidden to dance by her mother for reasons of poor health. Albrecht, a young nobleman, falls in love with Giselle putting in motion a love triangle, which ends in the death of Giselle. The theme of unrequited love is integral to the tragedy of the story.

Navas has put a contemporary twist to his storyline to bring the ballet into the 21st century. It is still a love triangle but it is Giselle who pursues Albrecht. Albrecht is involved in a relationship with Hilarion, the gamekeeper. In the original story, Hilarion is in love with Giselle.  Albrecht is intrigued by the infatuation of Giselle but in the end he remains true to Hilarion.

On opening night, the role of Giselle was danced by Alexis Fletcher, Albrecht by Connor Gram and Hilarion by Gilbert Small. Mikaila Wallace danced the role of Myrtha, the queen of the Wilis. The Wilis are the spirits of women who have been jilted by their lovers and who have ended their own lives out of desperation and despair. Navas has used the emotions of desire, longing, love, regret and despair as the basis for his ballet. He created a “chorus” of dancers to magnify these emotions. The chorus also allowed Navas to showcase all of the talent in this company. The inspiration for the chorus came from the Wilis.

It is an ambitious and difficult ballet to perform. It requires succinct movement and passion to convey the emotion that the characters are feeling. This is a challenge due to the tempo of the music and the innovative choreography.  The dancers are required to dig deep into their experience base to bring out all that is required.  The lighting by Marc Parent highlights the efforts of the dancers and also showcases the dramatic costumes that were created by Linda Chow.

As a backdrop to this contemporary version of Giselle, Navas used the talents of Lino for set and animation design. The storyline was narrated with the illustrations that were projected on the back curtain. This technique also helped to augment the mood of each act. Jean-Sebastian Baillat and Guillaume Cardell are created with the animations.

Giselle marks the completion of the 2012/2013 season. The season has been a triumph for Ballet BC. They received a standing ovation for their performance on opening night. There was also a very appreciative and heartfelt acknowledgement to the accomplishments of Emily Molnar, artistic director of Ballet BC at the conclusion of her opening remarks.

© 2013 Nancie Ottem