Truly a Great Giselle

The Great Russian Ballet’s Stunning Interpretation of Love and Loss

By Kyle Poluyko

The Great Russian Ballet, currently on a cross-Canada 2016 Romantika tour, presented its elegant and picturesque production of the legendary ballet, Giselle, to a modest though captivated audience at the Community Auditorium on Monday, February 29. A romantic ballet in two acts with a haunting score by Adolphe Adam, Giselle is considered to be one of the most celebrated and influential ballets since its Paris premiere in 1841.

Giselle (Natalia Balan) is a young peasant girl. Shy and beautiful, Giselle has a love of dance though her weak heart leaves her in precarious health. She falls for a young nobleman named Albert (Vasili Bogdan), desperate to win Giselle’s affections. Albert has disguised himself as a modest villager, hiding his true identity and the fact that he is betrothed to the daughter of a Duke.  Another villager, Hans (Evgeni Tkach), is also in love with Giselle and pleads with her, adamant that Albert cannot be trusted. When Hans exposes Albert’s deception, the distraught and saddened Giselle dies of a broken heart.

The opening of the second act finds Hans mourning in the nighttime forest at Giselle’s grave. He is startled and frightened away by the arrival of The Wilis, the ghostly spirits of women forsaken by their lovers. Led by their beautiful yet merciless queen, Mirtha (Natalia Korotkov), The Wilis force men – as revenge – to dance until they die of exhaustion, a fate that befalls Hans. Giselle’s spirit is then roused by The Wilis, who adopt her into their coterie. Albert then arrives to place flowers upon Giselle’s grave, distraught with guilt. Giselle’s spirit appears to Albert and she, her love unceasing, forgives Albert. Mirtha and The Wilis are determined to see Albert meet a deathly fate as they did Hans, but Giselle’s love counters the savage magic and Albert is spared. As Mirtha and the Wilis disappear into the forest before the rise of daylight, Giselle bids farewell to her love and returns to rest in eternity.

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As Giselle, with striking beauty, Balan’s grace and form was meticulous and splendid. She is enchanting throughout. Bogdan radiates passion in his performance as Albert. With a strong, masculine presence, he is graceful in his every movement while unabashedly portraying both consummate love and painful lamentation in his every look.

Tkach also gives a passionate and agile performance. He too, like Vasili as Albert, is strong and skilled in his portrayal of Hans, a man more motivated by love than jealousy. He portrays his character’s grief and guilt with sophistication right through his stunning, torturous death. Korotkova’s Mirtha is luxuriously dignified, a true display of artistry and proficiency.

The true highlight of this production is the female corps de ballet. Elegantly dressed in lavish and layered costumes throughout, they danced with charm, grace, fluidity and command of the choreography by Marius Petipa, established in the late 19th century and still employed by companies across the globe today.

The Great Russian Ballet performed Giselle at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium on Monday, February 29 as part of its month-long Canadian Romantika tour. Visit greatrussianballet.com for more information.