by Eugene Toth
Hiding his cape, hunting horn, and sword of a lord, Count Albrecht persuaded Giselle, a country girl, to love him. Bursting on the scene, the hunter Hilarion showed Giselle the engraved sword of Albrecht. Learning that Albrecht lied to her, Giselle lost her mind. She died of a broken heart.
Wilis are ghosts of women who died of unrequited love. Myrta, the queen of the wilis summoned them to initiate Giselle into their sisterhood. Beside Giselle’s grave, eighteen wilis danced Hilarion, the hunter who loved Giselle and buried her, to death .
Below:Giselle protects Count Albrecht from the wilis.
Myrta, queen of the wilis, condemned Count Albrecht to dance to death. As a wili, Giselle protected Albrecht. She danced with him until four o’clock when wilis lose their power. In a memorable scene, Russian dancer Vladimir Shklyarov, as Albrecht, vaulted into the air an amazing 36 times.
Love, death, and dancing
Dancing to the limits of endurance sets Giselle apart from other ballets. The essence of Giselle, extreme dancing, gives to this ballet authenticity. Giselle is not a performance. In Giselle, we see something realistic, dancing to the limits.
As a tale of dancing to death with the wilis, Giselle’s libretto by Theophile Gautier adds to the ballet’s success. According to the playbill, Giselle is the oldest continually performed ballet. On May 23, 2015, the 75th Anniversary of the founding of American Ballet Theatre, the crowd glittered with stars. Giselle suits the tastes of ballet’s professionals. On her last dance as a principal dancer for ABT, Paloma Herrera on May 27, 2015 will dance Giselle.
To dance Giselle explores the limits of dancing. By its single minded focus on ultimate dancing, Giselle has won success. ABT’s performance proved Giselle’s power as one of the greatest ballets of all time.