GISELLE - The Royal NZ Ballet

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

11/08/2016 - 14/08/2016

Municipal Theatre, Napier

19/08/2016 - 19/08/2016

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

23/08/2016 - 24/08/2016

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

28/08/2016 - 28/08/2016

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

31/08/2016 - 03/09/2016

Production Details

Ethan Stiefel’s quintessential Romantic ballet returns to the RNZB

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s internationally acclaimed classic production of Giselle, created in Wellington by ballet superstars Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg, returns to New Zealand this August and September for a seven centre tour.

The quintessential Romantic ballet has become a signature work for the RNZB after sell-out performances in New Zealand in 2012, followed by subsequent tours to China (April 2013), the USA (January 2014), the UK and Italy (November 2015), and an adaptation into a feature film by New Zealand director Toa Fraser.

Ethan Stiefel, the RNZB’s former artistic director and co-choreographer of Giselle, will return to Wellington from New York to put the finishing touches on the production ahead of its opening on 11 August.  Since leaving the RNZB at the end of 2014, Stiefel has been working with leading international ballet companies and involved in several stage and television projects (Flesh and Bone by the writers of Breaking Bad and Center Stage: On Pointe reprising his role in the popular 2000 film Center Stage)

“I’m delighted to return to Wellington to work once more in the RNZB studios on this production. Giselle is one of ballet’s great stories and we feel very honoured to have created a version that has resonated with international audiences and critics alike” says Stiefel.

RNZB’s artistic director Francesco Ventriglia has invited two guest artists to dance the leading male role of Albrecht for this season:  much-loved former RNZB dancer Qi Huan who danced the role with the company until his departure in 2014 to take up his current role as full-time classical tutor at the New Zealand School of Dance; and former principal dancer with The Australian Ballet Daniel Gaudiello.

Qi Huan will partner Lucy Green who will dance the title role of Giselle, one of the most demanding and dramatic in the classical ballet repertoire, while Daniel Gaudiello will partner Mayu Tanigaito.  Both Green and Tanigaito received widespread critical acclaim for their performances in the ballet in the UK andItaly.

Giselle includes some of the most beautiful and iconic scenes in all ballet repertory and is renowned for its exquisite pointe work in Act 2, which is set in a ghostly moonlit forest haunted by the white-clad ’Wilis‘. First staged in Paris in 1841, Giselle is one of the oldest surviving ballets still in the international repertory.  The music by Adolphe Adam (1803-1856) is one of the first full-length ballet scores ever to be composed. 

For the RNZB’s production, the lyrical score will be performed live by orchestras in the four main centres, with a specially recorded version in all other centres. Leading conductor Marc Taddei will conduct Orchestra Wellington, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra and Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

Giselle opens in Wellington on Thursday 11 August ahead of touring to Napier, Christchurch, Dunedin, Auckland and Rotorua, closing in Palmerston North on 9 September.







Presented by: Royal New Zealand Ballet

Former RNZB Artistic Director Ethan Stiefel’s classic production of Giselle first toured New Zealand in 2012, to critical acclaim and sell-out audiences. Subsequently performed by the RNZB in China, the USA, the UK and Italy, and turned into a feature film by New Zealand director Toa Fraser, this is a welcome opportunity for New Zealand audiences to again see this hauntingly beautiful ballet.

In a remote village, the beautiful and innocent Giselle is courted and captivated by a mysterious stranger. When he is revealed as Count Albrecht, betrothed to another, Giselle, broken hearted, descends into madness and death.

In the forest, the Wilis, vengeful ghosts of jilted brides, meet to greet their recently arrived sister: Giselle, who rises from her grave to join their ranks. Albrecht arrives to mourn, and the Wilis exact their revenge, compelling him to dance until he dies from exhaustion. Giselle shields him from their fury, until the first light of day brings the promise of forgiveness and redemption.

Romantic, mystical and lyrical, Giselle is a timeless production of one of classical ballet’s great stories.

Wellington Free Events

Fri 12 Aug 6.20pm – 6.50pm
Pre-performance music or choreographic talks

Sat 13 Aug – Post-matinee
Q & A with artistic staff and dancers

Sat 13 Aug 6.20pm – 6.50pm
Warm Up, Curtain Up- watch the company prepare for its evening performance

Christchurch Free Events

Wed 24 Aug 6.20pm – 6.50pm
Warm Up, Curtain Up- watch the company prepare for its evening performance

Napier Free Event

Fri 19 Aug 6.20pm – 6.50pm
Warm Up, Curtain Up- watch the company prepare for its evening performance

Running Times:
Times are approx. and subject to change at any time.

Box Office Opens: 2hrs prior to show
Theatre Doors Open: 30mins prior to show
Lockout: 9 minutes
Act I: 50 minutes
Interval: 20 minutes
Act II: 47 minutes
Box Office Opens: 1hr 30mins prior to show
External Doors Open: 1hr prior to show
Lockout: 9 minutes
Act I: 50 minutes
Interval: 20 minutes
Act II: 47 minutes
Box Office Opens: 1hr prior to show
Theatre Doors Open: 30mins prior to show
Lockout: 9 minutes
Act I: 50 minutes
Interval: 20 minutes
Act II: 47 minutes


Cast lists are available for each centre on the Royal NZ Ballet web site

Dance , Ballet ,

2 hours

Simply superb in every way

Review by Raewyn Whyte 01st Sep 2016

It is easy to see why the Royal NZ Ballet’s signature work Giselle has earned popular and critical acclaim at home in New Zealand and around the world: it is simply superb in every way.

Revisioned by Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg, this version of the 1841 classic presents 21st century ballet technique and a naturalism in performance that makes the story emotionally convincing. The action is attentively matched to the repeating melodies and motifs of the score by Adolph Adam which carry the tale along, played beautifully on this occasion by the APO conducted by Marc Taddei.

In the lead roles on opening night in Auckland, Lucy Green as Giselle, guest former principal dancer Qi Huan as Albrecht, and Mayu Tanigaito as Myrtha, Queen of the Willis, were everything you could wish for. Their virtuoso performances were technically impeccable and utterly riveting, bringing subtle nuances to the various incidents which combine to tell the story of Giselle’s doomed love for Albrecht.

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Giselle: Delicate, defined, and dynamic

Review by Sarah Knox 01st Sep 2016

The Royal New Zealand Ballet presents Giselle at the ASB Theatre, in Auckland, reminding us what it is like to love, and to lose.

The story of Giselle is as relevant and relatable now as it was at its creation in 1841. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, but the boy has secrets, which leads to heartbreak.

Through the suspense and drama of the overture we see an aged Albrecht, head in hands, encased in the soft and gentle torment of the roots of a tree. He remembers the moments he shared with his love, Giselle, before she learned the truth about him.

Lucy Green as Giselle and Qi Huan as Albrecht are a sublime couple in both the story and in movement. This is a very physically demanding ballet for the two leads and Green and Huan support one another through to the end. Green is masterful with her technique. She hangs in the air with every jump and can posé into an effortless balance in arabesque as her eyes slowly scan the space for her love. The fluidity and calm through her port de bras is as gentle and effortless as Giselle should be and her movement seems to both approach and retreat simultaneously. Able to hold space even when not dancing, she shows true generosity with the other characters who share in her story by passing focus to them at appropriate moments. Naïve, a girl, in Act One, she brings more maturity to the role in Act Two as she protects her dear Albrecht from dancing to his death.  Huan is a powerful dancer with a gentlemanly spirit. He connects with the audience superbly and is in control of every movement, allowing us to be on the edge of our seats with the story, and not because of a failed tour en l’air.

Giselle’s village welcomes a wedding, Bride and Groom danced beautifully by Bronte Kelly and Joseph Skelton, which provides a joyful interlude to the story, though I wanted to understand a little more deeply what impact the wedding has on Giselle’s experience.

Mayu Tanigaito, as Myrtha Queen of the Wilis, marries technical perfection and icy charisma. She communicates her sternness with a look in her eyes that makes your blood run cold. I enjoyed though, moments of softness in her opening solo to Act Two, almost as if when alone, she too might reminisce about a tender love lost.

The corps de ballet transform wonderfully between peasants, aristocrats and ethereal Wilis. There is some obvious understanding about the characters they are playing and how the energy should shift and change between scenes and the two acts. Several members of the corps de ballet deserve special mention for their beautifully animated yet understated performances contributing well to the overall ballet: Katherine Grange, Laughlin Prior, Yang Lui, Felipe Domingos, and Alayna Ng. The company is also to be commended for its slowly growing diversity. Many aspiring ballet dancers are now likely to see “someone like me” in the company.

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, with spirited leadership from Marc Taddei, ae in fine form. Through Taddei’s sensitivity and animation we are able to sense the partnership between the orchestra and the dancers in real time.

With the occasional opening night wobble we are reminded that these dancers are humans striving, sweating and steeling to achieve the grace, athleticism and mystery we expect from the ballet. My date for the evening had never seen a ballet before and said he enjoyed his introduction and would consider going back for more. As a story ballet, Giselle is an easily understood introduction to the ballet world, with a storyline we can all relate to. It is certainty an unmissable romantic classic for the balletomanes. The dancers’ technique is exemplary and the costumes, lighting, music and set will whisk you away to a sweet spring evening elsewhere.

Giselle is on until Saturday 3rd September in Auckland. For more dates in Rotorua and Palmerston North visit


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Poetry in motion in iconic tale

Review by Sheree Bright 25th Aug 2016

The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO) beautifully performs the music of The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s (RNZB) production of Giselle. International stars and virtuoso guest artists Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg unite for the glorious choreography and production.

A real testament to the story, choreography and score of the ballet Giselle, is its ability to stand the test of time. It is commonly thought that although Giselle may have gone through some changes since it was first produced in Paris in 1841, it has never been off the boards. The story is simple, sincere and fairly easy to follow.

Giselle, an innocent village girl, falls in love with a stranger. Hilarion, the rustic village gamekeeper, interrupts this sweet and tender, blossoming romance by professing his love to Giselle. Hilarion eventually discovers that the stranger is actually Count Albrecht, previously betrothed to the glamorous Lady Bathilde.

In this version, Albrecht seems sincere in his love for Giselle, but the appearance of deception leaves her devastated and broken hearted. As she spirals into madness, she grows weaker in body and mind, and with a final fall to the floor, dies. Her spirit is summoned to join the Wilis. The Wilis are the spirits of jilted brides from Slavic folklore that exist in the haunted forest. In Giselle, Myrtha, their icy queen, orders the Wilis to force the men to dance to their death. Hilarion and Albrecht both enter the moonlit forest by Giselle’s gravesite, however, only Hilarion dies. Although Albrecht is spared by Giselle’s enduring love and protection, he lives into old age with a broken heart.

As the performance begins, there is a giant tree on a scrim from which projected hearts fall like autumn leaves, a foreshadowing. It is one of several highly effective devices used by accomplished designers: lighting by Kendall Smith, scenic by Howard C Jones and costumes by Natalia Stewart. Another very effective projection enhancing the fantasy is the moving, intertwining roots of the giant tree as the unseen mysteries of the forest reveal themselves. The rustic village scene has stylised roof lines with a castle on a high hill in the far distance, all contributing to the story while providing plenty of room for the dancers.

Theophile Gautier originally created Giselle in 1841 inspired by the Romanticism and his infatuation of the great ballerina muses of the time, Marie Taglioni and Carlotta Grisi.  If the “essence of ballet is poetic” as Gautier has said, RNZB’s Lucy Green as Giselle is the essence of ballet. While there may be ballerinas who have higher arabesques, etc, Green’s performance is beautifully poetic. She gently holds the audience with her engaging expressions and full body commitment, completely inhabiting Giselle’s character. With subtle delicacy and silky smooth movements, she expresses the entire range of Giselle’s emotions. There is no ‘position here, position there’. With Lucy Green, the performance of Giselle flows like a long, silk ribbon, as one poetic movement.

Her white top and yellow flowing skirt contrasts appropriately with the autumn and winter colours of the other costumes and set. In spite of the tragic nature of the story, like a spring daffodil, Lucy Green as Giselle portrays a joyful, hopeful youthfulness and grace.

Guest artist, Qi Haun (Albrecht) is a sublime partner for Green’s Giselle. Their various pas de deux synch as they are technically and emotionally synchronised through turns, lifts and grande jetes. Haun is consistently superb as he demonstrates his technical proficiency with emotional depth. Jacob Chown adeptly portrays the rustic, doomed Hilarion. Both men demonstrate crisp entrechats-six (feet crisscrossing rapidly in the air) and delight the audience with their impressive solo dances to the death.

Laura Saxon Jones (Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis) clearly commands her domain from the first movement upon her entrance. She is stern and icy, however, I wonder if there is a way to introduce more depth to that character. At one point, Queen Myrtha is in total command of Giselle’s movements, and Giselle explodes into a burst of startlingly rapid, backward, hopping, attitude turns.

Bronte Kelly and Joseph Skelton (the Wedding Couple) skilfully provide a joyful focus of wedded bliss and cause for villagers to celebrate.  Throughout this performance, I notice the consistent gracefulness of Yang Liu (Moyna). The entire corps de ballet display beautiful work as they create numerous memorable, iconic moments.

The expert Marc Taddei conducts the CSO through Adolphe Adams score, with Sarah McCracken as acting concert master. From the solitary bell opening the 2nd Act in the cemetery, to the harp and the French horns, instruments are utilised to create a wonderful atmosphere bringing a rich depth to the experience of the production. Consummate professionals, they manage this with only 3 rehearsals and one dress rehearsal with the dance company.

I contemplate on how much is unseen, all of the work behind the scenes. Hours of creative work and hard yards are given by designers, choreographers, composers, conductors and the commitment of the people who bring their visions to fruition. I know dancers and musicians devote years to training, the sweat and tears as they face the next challenge and the joy of achievement. All are pushing beyond the limits of the status quo to find another level of excellence. It all, seemingly, magically manifests in what is seen, heard and felt during the performance.

Congratulations to the entire company of the Royal New Zealand Ballet for their wonderful version of Giselle. Although this Romantic ballet story may not end well, the audience leaves feeling good, happy to have seen this excellent performance.

Note: RNZB’s education program includes ‘Warm Up, Curtain Up’. I was very impressed by host educator, Pagan Dorgan. She delivers a thorough and concise explanation of what we are about to experience as we watch the dancers in their pre-performance warm-up led by the new ballet master Alberto Montesso.



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Tonia Looker and Joseph Skelton cannot be faulted

Review by Sonia Mackenzie 20th Aug 2016

From the opening moments of heart shaped leaves drifting from a woodland tree the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s latest adaptation of Giselle is captivating. Having seen this ballet performed several times, the slightly new slant on the beginning of the work renews my interest.  I feel there is a good touch of realism which melds nicely with the expertise of the dancers.

Choreography, dance, costumes and music combine well, making the audience feel a part of the peasant village where the first act takes place. The facial expressions of the dancers cast a breath of fresh air into the theatre: there are no puppets there.

The principal dancers tonight are Tonia Looker and Joseph Skelton who, both singularly and together, cannot be faulted. In particular the pas de deux in the second act is superb. Katherine Grange and Shaun Kelly as the married couple ooze happiness, as newlyweds should! The choreography for Giselle’s mother, Berthe, danced by Alayna Ng, is perfect. All the costumes are excellent – in particular that of Abigail Boyle, who plays Bathilde with style, is magnificent. 

The second act is more sombre with the tree roots rising to display the grave of Giselle. The Wilis dancers are in perfect time and balance (their leader could have been a replacement for Diana Rigg). I delight in the more traditional dance themes, the strength of the lift in the pas de deux and Giselle’s little jig.

Altogether I enjoy the show very much, an excellent contrast between scenes to satisfy all different ballet followers, but the credits in my book go to Tonia Looker who portrayed the heights of love and the depths of despair throughout the entire performance.


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Extremes of technical mastery and emotional impact

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 16th Aug 2016

Returning to the stage is the 2012 production by Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg. A stand out memory for me of this first production was the performance by internationally acclaimed ballerina Gillian Murphy. Details of the actual production were less of a memory so a chance to revisit one of the great and most enduring classical ballets was not to be missed!

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A spectacular, modern performance

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 13th Aug 2016

Giselle is a touchstone ballet in the classical repertoire and one of the most famous and enduring. This production by ex-Royal New Zealand Ballet director Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobberg first took the stage in 2012, and has had both national and international acclaim.

On opening night in 2012, the lead was danced by the illustrious Gillian Murphy, and this performance came to mind as I took my seat for another opening night of one of my favourite ballets. 

This time, a new partnership takes the stage in one of the timeless ballets that provides both technical and artistic challenge at the highest level. Lucy Green and Qi Huan did not disappoint – Green has been a rising star for some time and she took the role of Giselle and made it her own. [More


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Intricate care for detail, texture, and form

Review by Sam Trubridge 12th Aug 2016

The painted curtain lifts. An intricate scene straight from folklore is revealed – of a small wooden cottage surrounded by trees. In the background, here is a hill with a castle on it.

Giselle is a Romantic ballet, characterised by the use of flowing French skirts instead of tutus, tragic characters in natural settings, moonlit scenes, heightened emotion, and thwarted attempts to touch some sublime state or other world. In the first act, we are introduced to the young Count Albrecht, who ventures into the village to roll in the hay with a lower class waif. Of course, he is pledged to someone of much higher standing than this innocent Giselle, and when it all comes crashing down she finds it too much to bear and dies of madness.

The image of that distant castle looking down on Giselle’s humble shack presides over this whole first half in a stunning and intricate set design by Howard C Jones. It could as well be the Trump Tower or some penthouse suite in London looking down upon a housing estate. Flocks of happy peasants leap around looking very happy being poor, while the nobility march about demanding to be served. Seen through a contemporary lens, Albrecht is a questionable character. All the same, the duets between Qi Huan (Albrecht) and Lucy Green (Giselle) in these lead roles are delicate, tender, and full of the brush and tremble of first love. Another newly wedded couple (Bronte Kelly and Joseph Skelton) dance with exemplary post-nuptial joy.

The choreography in this first act gives a wonderful sense of each character’s place in love – from these newly-weds, through Giselle and Albrecht’s shy touch, to Hilarion, Giselle’s other suitor, who never finds a partner to dance with. Jacob Chown is brilliant as Hilarion: strong, proud, strutting the stage and exploding into powerful leaps with arms akimbo that leave no space for another to dance with him anyway. By contrast, Albrecht works beautifully in time with Giselle. He is lissom and spritely, with large leaps that give him a lot of time to work in the air. The jolly villagers come and go several times in a series of group dances, crossing lines, and rotating partners that remind me of the origins of ballet within courtly dances of the 15th Century ballroom.

It is very camp, even though the endless return of the wedded couple seems to enforce the work as a tutorial on wedded bliss, or the importance of staying with your own kind. It also seems to trivialise the endless and silent suffering of the poor. After all, when Albrecht is revealed as nobility, it is only Giselle who dies from heartbreak and grief. In this last scene, she rejects Albrecht’s arm and tries to dance alone. She falls several times, perhaps because his hands are not there to catch her. Each time she tries to pick herself up, but after a few more leaps and turns of the stage she falls again, falling in grief, just as she fell in love, falling finally to death.

When the curtain rises on Act Two we are plunged into a scene from a David Caspar Friedrich painting, complete with the silhouettes of gnarly trees and a distant moon rising over a misty valley. We are at Giselle’s grave. Like many ballets, the first act of Giselle is written to give everyone something to dance about in the second act. And so it is that we enter a much more abstract and expressive chapter in the work, with less story or exposition to distract from the choreography. After his tumble in the hay, Albrecht is still upset about Giselle’s death, but patently not so distraught about it as she was.

His presence attracts the ‘Wilis’: ghosts of women who have died from a broken heart that are intent upon exacting their revenge on men like Albrecht by making them dance to their death. But rather than being strong Furies and avenging angels, these characters are more of a collection of willowy women who bend together in perfect unison – as if to some invisible breeze or to the whims of male folk. Mayu Tanigaito is an exception, however, and her electric performance as Myrtha, the leader of the Wilis, is full of spite, grief, and control even at the highest extension of her legs. She drifts about the stage, haunting Albrecht and Hilarion each in turn on see-sawing legs and flickering en pointe. Eventually, the other brides join her in the glade, all veiled and in perfect synchrony as they drift in arabesque. Here the strength of the company really shows itself, as several soloists show their mettle and the corps moves together with spellbinding grace.

As Albrecht kneels before the grave, he becomes haunted by Giselle’s own ghost. A lovely duet ensues that continues from their last contact in Act One, where Giselle had rejected his arm and danced her final dance alone. Here, she continues where she left off, as Albrecht begins to sense her. However, each time he reaches for her, they just miss one another, agonisingly, so the duet continues without a touch. Until they do finally touch. Then he sweeps her on a high lift into the moonlight. She remembers him even as a ghost.

Hilarion is chased in by a whole army of the vengeful female spirits. Chown’s bold moves are no longer full of his earlier pride and confidence. Instead, there is torment to his leaps and turns, as the women whirl around him in a dizzy storm of white tulle. This is probably the most interesting scene of all, where we see traditional ballet dynamics reversed as the male choreography is manipulated by women. He lurches in their grasp, struggling to escape, dancing, dancing until he falls. Next,  it is Albrecht’s turn to dance to his death: one black figure amongst a billowing chorus of spectres. There is a wonderful moment at the beginning of this sequence when he freezes, trapped by a herringboned line of dancers in arabesque. At one end Myrtha faces him, full of icy rage, whilst behind him Giselle approaches tenderly.

It is strange that the following duet puts Albrecht back in charge. Instead of taking control, Giselle drifts, folds double, and seems almost unable to stand or move on her own feet except en trembling pointe – a delicate teetering music box ballerina rather than a vengeful spirit.  It is spellbinding dance though, and Green’s following solo builds with greater force.

In the stunning finale, the entire corps turns on the spot with feet lifted high behind their stooped heads or drift across the stage on hopping feet.  They chase Albrecht into a frenzy. At times his leaps are mirrored by the corps, with their legs sweeping wide circles in the space. RNZB guest artist Qi Huan really shows his outstanding strength and form here, with long legs and spectacularly high leaps and rondes de jambes. There is one standout moment: a never-ending changement en pied that takes Albrecht/Huan higher and higher with each jump, his legs flickering at the top of each leap –  jumping, jumping, jumping on the spot as if to escape some mortal grounding, to take off, and to become a spirit himself. It is desperate, heroic, and breathtaking.

As it happens, Albrecht survives this encounter by dancing til dawn breaks and is heralded by bells, and we see him become the ragged figure that opened both acts. Obscured in the dark beneath the roots of a great tree, there is a suggestion that this incarnation is perhaps some kind of living dead as well, as in the final tableau, he emerges from his hole to face Myrtha and the ghosts one last time.

This is the Royal New Zealand Ballet doing something they are known for – faithful reincarnations of old ballet classics and glorious tales from a timeless golden-age. But in this week where the world’s best athletes compete against a backdrop of extreme poverty, corruption, and pollution, one has to wonder what agenda is served by this olympian mastery of movement and form? Is it just a pleasant distraction? In this story of a rich kid getting his dick wet with a waif (then regretting it for the rest of his life), one has to wonder what indulgences are being romanticised. One might also wonder what this production could become in the hands of an artist with conscience and the conviction to use this form progressively – to critique and shape new paradigms. We may still have the same story, and the same stylistic qualities, but there is a chance for an artistry of greater relevance, which in this case has been wasted on a Disney-fuelled fantasy of plaintive maidens and indulgent princes.

Perhaps one may take a cue from Sian Torrington’s stunning works made for the latest Courtenay Place Light Box commission, found just outside the St James Theatre.  Torrington’s collage of drawings, texts, and photography We Don’t Have To Be The Building celebrates a whakapapa of queer female activism, solidarity, and sexuality, and does so with the same intricate care for detail, texture, and form demonstrated in Giselle. The colour-palette and frenetic life drawings remind me of the sketches of French artist Edgar Degas, known for capturing the intimate moments, poise, and dynamic movement of 19th Century ballet dancers. In this way, the ballet and Torrington’s panels seem to provoke one another, and I am left wondering what exciting new visions of ballet might be within reach if we let go of a few out-dated aspects of this old art form.


Sam Trubridge October 13th, 2016

Here is a production that seems to answer many of my concerns:

And some great interviews which show a little of how they are reworking this ballet classic:

Sam Trubridge August 24th, 2016

Thanks Ann, no way that I want to defend my comments within a canonical discussion of ballet, because of course this is a Romantic ballet, and this is performed as such, with all its sentimentality, and some 2012 re-workings that are apparent to anyone who has studied the original choreography. 

But if ballet is to be considered an art form (which you do claim when making the distinctions from gymnastics, Rio, etc) then ballet must be accountable for the message that it is communicating, and the mode of that message. Equally, a critical discussion of an art-work does not need to draw comparisons solely within that field. Discussing Disney in relation to Ballet can be useful for examples on storytelling, thematics, prince/princess dynamics, and how a work perpetuates stereotypes, gender roles, etc. Disney’s sentimental storytelling has been analysed in just this way – with its questionable gender, class, and racial stereotypes the subject of much discussion. So recently we have Frozen – an interesting reworking of the Disney formula that attempts to respond to some criticism. You can shut the door and say that ballet has nothing to do with Disney, but that’s kind of avoiding the point.

I am aware that my review was a bit crass at times in its description of Albrecht’s character and motives – thus not recognising the story’s emotional arc. But it surprised me that under this genteel story, and the amazing virtuosity of the dancers and the company, there lurked this story that was actually rather crass as well. If I was given the responsibility of working with this story then I would try and find some way of reconciling this matter with a contemporary audience. The emotions etc in the story will mean a lot to you if you feel like it is directed to you as an audience member. But this did not for me. And so it felt like an exercise in reconjuring dated sentiments and dated class and gender roles. I kept thinking about what 21st Century audiences might take from this work: Sian Torrington’s audience, a diverse NZ audience, an audience of poor Cariocas, or kids living in Harlem, Baton Rouge, or Ferguson. Each time I was surprised by how exclusive the target audience seemed to be. I have seen other shows by RNZB, National Ballet of Canada, Ballet North, Royal Ballet, ENB, NYCBallet etc doing classical, romantic, and updated ballet works, but seldom have I been so aware of how dated the storytelling, the characters, and the class/gender roles are in this form. I believe great artistry looks beyond the distractions of technique, sentiment, and showmanship to question the story being made, the ideas and attitudes being conveyed, and its relevance to that time. Otherwise, yes, it does become a bit gymnastic to me – sorry.

Ann Hunt August 13th, 2016

Sam Trubridge's review of Giselle displays his ignorance of both the art form and human emotion. Is he really suggesting that some choreographer modernise the ballet to fit more comfortably with the twenty-first century's pre-occupation with political correctness and gender politics? Really?

Giselle was first created in 1841 and is the epitome of Romantic Ballet style. So of course it is romantic and sentimental! But it is as far removed aestheticaly from anything that Walt Disney ever produced as Fred Astaire is from Parris Goebel! His comment is unbelieveably stupid!

Further, his comparison between the present Olympic Games in Rio, (which any intelligent person with a social conscience knows should not be happening,) and classical ballet are completely unfathomable. Athletics are athletics, a form of super-skilled physical prowess at the top -most level. Classical ballet is an art form, which requires not only physical prowess of yes, if you like, Olympian standard, but also interpretative and emotional skill of the highest order.  If you are a dancer whose technique is brilliant and paramount, but who has little or no interpretative skill, then you are not a great dancer. You are a great technician. There is a world of difference. 

Trubridge complains that in Act Two, Giselle is a "...delicate teetering music box ballerina rather than a vengeful spirit." Well excuse me, but that is the whole point of the second Act - not that she is a "music box ballerina," but that she is not a vengeful spirit? Rather, she is the spirit of forgiveness. So great is her love for Albrecht that she is able to forgive him his duplicity and save his life.

Also, this production of Giselle is not a faithful reincarnation of an old ballet classic, as Trubridge suggets. It was first produced and re-worked by Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg in 2012, with considerable changes to the original Coralli/Perrot choreography, and with the 'bookending' device of the older Albrecht remembering Giselle and consumed by remorse.

Audiences flock to see the great classic ballets such as Giselle, Swan Lake and Les Sylphides, not becasue they wish to see male/female relations stuck in a  175 time warp, but because, if interpretated with beauty and finesse, they are the equivalent of the great master paintings. They are superb works of art that elevate the human spirit and which can inspire emotion and thought as a result. 

Albrecht loved Giselle, too late yes, but he loved her all the same.Like many people he made a great error of judgement and lived to regret it. It is a pity that Trubridge fails to see the tragedy in Giselle, so preoccupied is he in misinterpreting human frality, not to mention art and gymnastics.   

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