The earthy tones are the first thing you’ll notice as the curtain rises on the opening scene of Giselle. Set in peasant times, the set design uses muted colours of orange, brown and yellow so it’s the costumes and movement that first catch your eye.
Valerie Tereshchenko is magnificent as Giselle. Tentative but determined. Naive but willful. Essential yet disposable. She has a weak heart after all. Giselle is joined on stage by Hilarion, a local gamekeeper who secretly loves Giselle so flirting then hiding is de rigueur. The music by Adolphe Adam accentuates their every move.
A single wooden bench is the stage for this dance of contact between Giselle and Hilarion and then Giselle and Albrecht. Choreographers Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot make sure the audience falls a little in love right there. Together then apart. Apart then together. Playful, clapping then out of sight. If Giselle was set in the modern day they might be holding phones and swiping right as well as dancing.
Giselle follows the story of a village girl who falls in love with a man who is not all he seems. When she discovers his deception, she dies of a broken heart. Transformed into a spirit, she is reunited with her lover in a forest haunted by the ghosts of jilted women, and must dance with him until dawn to save his life.
That is until Prince Albrecht (Jake Mangakahia) arrives. Disguised as a villager, he wins Giselle’s heart despite Hilarion’s protests. Suave and beautifully light on his feet, it’s easy to see why Giselle falls for him. But remember her heart is weak.
Bathilde (Valerie Tereshchenko) is stunning in all her splendour as the daughter of the Duke of Courtland and unbeknown to Giselle, Albrecht is already betrothed to Bathilde. She brings a special energy to her performance especially evident in the second act.
Giselle’s mother is very protective and Berthe (Coco Mathieson) takes her role very seriously and is a constant taunt to Giselle’s whims. She is also the last person Giselle kisses before she dies.
Myrthe (Jasmin Durham) is equally strong in her role as Queen of the Wilis who leads a stunning ensemble in flowing white. Peasant pas de deux Yuumi Yamada and Takahiro Tamagawa have great presence individually and together and support the main cast and narrative well. Wilfred (Richard House) and the Duke (Matthew Bradwell) also give large performances.
The ensemble cast uses the stage beautifully thanks to the Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director, David McAllister, their dancing in harmony with each other and the space, which must be challenging every few days, given the different regional venues.
The stage is magically transformed in the second act and it’s like Giselle’s death transcends time, the hues of the moonlight: blue, green and yellow shimmer against the flowing white of the Wilis as they emerge.
Giselle reappears or her spirit does at least looking more like a buoyant bride than a spirit. Yet no-one can really see or connect with her and this is heartbreaking for the audience because the love between Albrecht and Giselle is very real. A rich orchestral soundtrack lifts, pulls and celebrates the love of these two but does it save Albrecht? Well, you’ll just have to go to find out.
The Australian Ballet Regional Tour presents Giselle at the Albury Entertainment Centre on Friday July 14 at 7.30pm and Saturday July 15 at 1.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets from $28