Wednesday 26 July 2017

Giselle, Ballet Ireland at Project Arts Centre, Dublin - review

Ballet Ireland's Giselle choreographed by Ludovic Ondiviela. On tour until 27 May 2017. Photograph by Declan English
Ballet Ireland's Giselle choreographed by Ludovic Ondiviela. On tour until 27 May 2017. Photograph by Declan English

Katy Hayes

Ballet Ireland gives Giselle a makeover in this impressive new version from choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela, danced by a first rate company of international talent.

The motifs of the movement are familiar in the classical sense: plenty of lifts, arabesques, pointe work, but all given a faintly modern tinge. The gracefulness is constantly undercut and tempered with jagged movement and discomfiting recoils. It feels simultaneously classical and new.

The music also has been rearranged and enhanced with soundscape by Tom Lane and Robert Moloney; it has the comforting melodiousness of Adolphe Adams’ original 19th Century score, but the familiarity is drenched in freshness.

Both choreography and concept prioritise narrative, with plenty of mime and some shadow work. The story has been significantly altered to add drama. A poetic voiceover provides clarity as well as texture to a police interrogation scene. A highlight (one of many) is the dance between Albrecht and the corpse of Giselle, who is brought in on a gurney.

Act 2 moves to the graveyard, and the appearance of the ghostly Wilis. Traditionally an all female dance, this is reimagined with a mixed male and female company, so the ballet has its gender-revenge theme removed. The group choreography is highly effective, containing staggered formations, creating a disconcerting sense of off rhyme. Maree Kearns’s delightful design and costumes deliver tremendous atmosphere.

This is a hugely enjoyable version that will satisfy traditionalists as well as innovators. Like a successful refurbishment of a classical building, you can admire the enhancements, but it’s clear the original structure is holding the whole thing up. The ending is pure romance.

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