Giselle is a story about the true power of love, and I can’t help but be wrapped up in it!
Originally performed in 1842, Giselle was written in the romantic era of ballet (think long flowing tulle skirts and picture perfect postcard poses) It’s about a peasant girl Giselle, who lives a simple and happy life with her mother. Giselle loves to dance, but her mother always worries about her and is overprotective, as she has a weak heart.
During festivities for Harvest, a young nobleman, Duke Albrecht, visits the village and falls madly in love with Giselle, even though he is already betrothed to another, Bathilde. With help from his squire, he disguises himself as a peasant boy by the name of Loys, and woos Giselle, who falls in love with him.
Giselle has another admirer in the village, Hilarion, who goes to Giselle to warn her Loys cannot be trusted, and not to get involved with him, but she does not listen. At the festivities, there is lots of dancing, and Giselle and Loys dance together. Meanwhile Hilarion has discovered the truth about Loys, and outs his secret in front of everyone. Poor Giselle is devastated at being deceived by her lover, flies into a crazed episode “the mad scene” completely heartbroken, she starts to dance irratically, which proves too much for her fragile heart, and she passes away in Albrecht’s arms, who then flees the village in guilt.
Hilarion visits Giselle’s grave, but is scared away by The Wilis, a group of maiden spirits who were betrayed by their lovers. Their leader Myrtha, is particularly scornful, and together they seek out men and make them dance until they die of exhaustion as their revenge. Myrtha summons Giselle from her grave, just as Albrecht comes to pay his respects. He begs Giselle for forgiveness, and because her love for him is so strong, she accepts, then disappears, Albrecht following behind.
Meanwhile The Wilis have found Hilarion, made him dance until exhaustion, then drowned him in a lake. They then turn on Albrecht. He. He and Giselle beg Myrtha for him to be spared, but she does not listen, and makes him dance until dawn. However, the power of Giselle’s love is so strong, it breaks the Wilis spell, and Albrecht lives. At sunrise, the wilis return to their graves, but Giselle’s love has also broken their hold over her. She returns to her grave and can rest in peace.
The choreography plays a big part in this ballet, particularly for The Wilis. The endless courus, that glide so effortlessly across the floor, as though they were hovering, the lightness and height in the jetes, combined with the floating tulle skirts, and continuous flow of the arms in ports de bras, actually transform them into ghosts right before your eyes!
Such a beautiful story, one that is still relevant today. It offers hope,that even though we can be hurt, lied to, betrayed and heartbroken, love really is the most powerful thing. It will mend, it will repair, it will teach us to trust again. And there’s no better story than that!