There’s a spate of Giselles about at the moment, radical reinventions of the 1841 ballet from Akram Khan for English National Ballet, and South African choreographer Dada Masilo, drawing on modern class and gender politics to rewrite the Romantic heroine for our times.
But if you prefer your Giselle with original spirit intact, then Birmingham Royal Ballet is the one for you. – Guardian
Giselle, Birmingham Royal Ballet
An audience’s full enjoyment of Giselle depends on a few things beyond, of course, good dancing: how involved you get with the story, and how atmospheric, spooky even, the production makes Act II.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 1999 production triumphs on all counts. The work of the company’s former veteran director David Bintley and its Russian former prima ballerina Galina Samsova, it remains faithful to Petipa’s 19th-century choreography and removes subsequent additions. In doing so, it provides new clarity and focus. – Teresa Guerreiro, CultureWhisper
David Bintley and Galina Samsova unveiled their production in 1999 (choreography by Petipa after Coralli and Perrot with additional choreography by Bintley), but this was the first time it had been performed in the capital for almost 20 years. It’s a beautifully shaped drama, one in which grace and generosity bring the story home to maximum effect. Love, betrayal and forgiveness — the emotions are as real as the charming dances of the first half and the poetic majesty of the second… The whole BRB company shone. The Times
This Giselle is not flashy, not trying to be relevant or shake things up. And it doesn’t have the emotional transcendence of the great Giselles. But it is danced with diligence, attention and sensitivity. It may not go down in history, but it brings history alive in the present. – Guardian
The production was originally created in 1999 with designs by Hayden Griffin. Most of these are wonderfully effective; in the first act we have a detailed medieval Rhineland village, with the vines growing on the hillside and a waterfall evoked in the distance. But there is the occasional lapse: the lurid costume for the Master of the Hunt almost induced giggles, like something from the dressing up box, and the white horse for Bathilde’s entrance is an unnecessary distraction. However, Griffin’s design for Act 2 redeems all, a stunning ruined gothic church where Giselle is buried in unhallowed ground. Everything comes together well here. Subtle lighting by Mark Jonathan provides atmospheric moonlight and finally dawn breaking through the crumbling windows. – DanceTabs
I was once scolded by a friend about seeing the same ballet so many times. Of course, one never sees the same performance of any ballet more than once, but I can never tire of Giselle. The more interpretations, the merrier for me; but – for tradition and clarity – few are ever likely to match this excellent production, which was developed with thoughtful purpose to enrich the whole genre of this ballet. – Graham Watts
Giselle, English National Ballet
Thanks to DVDs, broadcasts and ENB’s tireless touring, more than 300,000 people are thought to have seen this show – a giddy figure for a dance work that’s just three years old – and most critics showered it with superlatives too. – The Telegraph
This is a powerful and stunningly staged reimagining, set in our own times. Khan preserves the essential elements of love, betrayal, death, forgiveness — along with the presence of the supernatural — that are the stuff of the 19th-century original. But instead of the medieval peasants and aristocrats, the divided society that Khan depicts comprises “the outcasts”, dispossessed migrant garment-factory workers, of whom Giselle is one, and their heartless exploiters, the landlords.
That much is clear, though there are other matters in Khan and the dramaturge Ruth Little’s complex concept that require recourse to the programme notes. But in atmosphere and dance images, the work packs a big theatrical punch. – The Sunday Times
Tamara Rojo, who as ENB’s artistic director commissioned this work, danced Giselle in the opening cast of this revival: a characterisation combining defiance and vulnerability, and how eloquent she is even when standing still. James Streeter was her ardent, two-timing then remorseful lover, Albrecht, and Khan’s choreography in their duets is subtly affecting. Jeffrey Cirio, as Hilarion, was intense and athletic in a dramatically puzzling role; while Stina Quagebeur, as Myrtha, led her Wilis, the vengeful ghosts, with chilling force — one of the best things in the show. – The Sunday Times
Khan’s most inventive choreography is for the corps, full of machine-like syncopations, Karthak-inspired gestures and knotty interactions. His wilis – stuttering on pointe – are the stuff of nightmares. ENB’s corps danced with breathtaking energy.
It helps that Vincenzo Lamagna’s score is so brilliant, peppered with industrial, percussive power – although over-miked here – and cleverly referencing Adolphe Adam’s Romantic score. Gavin Sutherland and the English National Ballet Philharmonic balanced rhythmic drive in the ensembles with quiet eloquence in the duets. They should commit Lamagna’s to disc; I’d buy it. – BachTrack
It is no surprise to learn that Akram Khan’s Giselle is a sell out wherever it is performed. Not only is the ballet a global success, but it’s become English National Ballet’s signature piece. There is much to admire, most obviously, the choreography and dancing, but also the elements of collaboration, which make this such a rewarding experience. Tim Yip’s heavy-looking revolving wall, which separates the ‘outcasts’ from the ‘landlords’, is as much a part of the action as the figures it dominates. Vincenzo Lamagna’s haunting score and sound design, with its references to Adolf Adam’s original, poignantly draws the story with extraordinary clarity. Gavin Sutherland’s magnificent orchestration, alongside his conducting of English National Ballet Philharmonic is equally impressive. With Mark Henderson’s evocative lighting design and Ruth Little’s dramaturgy, it leaves you wanting for nothing. – DanceTabs
Certainly, there was, and still is, plenty to admire about it. It was a smart, tragically topical and entirely original idea of Khan and dramaturge Ruth Little’s to recast the doomed romance between the villager Giselle and the two-timing nobleman Albrecht (originally playing out in the Rhineland of the Middle Ages) as being between one of the rich “Landlords” and a member of a disfranchised community of migrant workers from a now-defunct branch of the garment industry. Similarly, Khan here deploys his signature Kathak/contemporary choreographic style (with added dashes of classical ballet) to constantly startling effect: by turns furiously aggressive, eye-poppingly amorous, and as mechanical-looking as an enormous industrial loom. – The Telegraph
Giselle, Birmingham Royal Ballet – backstage
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.