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GISELLE (article first published : 2001-10-3)

Lovers of classical ballet should immediately head for the Playhouse Drama and The South African Ballet Theatre’s Giselle for a highly enjoyable production of this romantic ballet. Tonight’s audience included a healthy number of young children which shows that this style of dance has a strong following from all ages.

In order to appreciate the discipline of dance to the full, it’s important to see classical as well as contemporary dance for without appreciating the one style, it is not possible to admire the finer points of the other.

This newly-formed company comprises members of the former State Theatre Ballet and Dance companies and, like Durban’s own Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company, is unsubsidised and trying to make a go of it in a financial climate for the arts that is shaky, to say the least.

The commitment of the organisers and dancers is very evident in this production. Turnout, line and corps de ballet discipline are strong and it was good to see Catherine Royce (formerly Catherine Moore until she married Duncan Royce) and Fiona Budd back on the Durban stage.

The story of Giselle is achingly sad and beautiful. A simple and frail young village girl falls in love with a young “peasant lad” who lives opposite her. In their flirtatious dance, she tears the petals off a daisy in the “He loves me, loves me not” game. She should have taken note of the negative message from the last petal as the young man (Albrecht) is really a royal duke who has disguised himself to enjoy her company. The gamekeeper Hilarion, himself in love with Giselle, reveals Albrecht’s true identity. Discovering this and the fact that her love is sworn to another is too much for Giselle. She loses her reason and dies after dancing herself into a frenzy.

The second act takes place beside a lake where Hilarion is sorrowing beside Giselle’s grave. He is confronted by the Willis – spirits of maidens who have died before their wedding day because of faithless lovers. Headed by their Queen (Myrthe), their vengeance on men is to make those they encounter dance to death. Giselle is summoned to be initiated but Albrecht suddenly appears to visit the grave. He is doomed to follow Hilarion’s fate and Giselle summons all her willpower to protect him. He is saved by the daylight which destroys the Willis’s power.

The principal roles are alternated but tonight I was privileged to see as Giselle the soulful, tall and willowy Angela Malan beautifully partnered by the impeccable Iain MacDonald as Albrecht. Burnise Silvius and Andries Weidemann performed the peasant pas de deux with spirit and verve, Anya Carstens was a suitably cold and imperious Myrthe and Manfred Hain a volatile and jealous Hilarion. I was also very impressed with Orlando Russell as Wilfred, Albrecht’s loyal squire.

There are performances Wednesday to Saturday (October 3 to 7) at 19h00 with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 15h00. The show runs for two hours and tickets range from R75 to R85 (incl. box-office fee) and block bookings for ten or more at a 10% discount. Book at TicketWeb or box office.




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