When it premiered in Paris in 1841, Giselle established the narrative ballet as we know it today. Adolphe Adam’s score revolutionised ballet music by introducing leitmotifs to represent mood and character. Meanwhile, Jules Perrot’s naturalistic choreography united emotion, movement and music to create an exceptionally expressive masterpiece of storytelling.
In Act One carefree peasant girl Giselle is seduced and betrayed by Albrecht, an aristocrat in disguise. In Act Two broken-hearted Giselle ascends to the spirit realm of the Wilis, a vengeful sisterhood of wronged women. Despite her pain, Giselle refuses to seek retribution and ultimately forgives Albrecht from beyond the grave.
As a principal ballerina, Tamara Rojo has danced the coveted role of Giselle in more than 100 performances. Now artistic director of English National Ballet, she has become increasingly fascinated by the story, thanks to the company’s revival of choreographer Mary Skeaping’s traditional, 19th-century-inspired re-creation of Giselle and the debut of a new re-imagining by contemporary dance innovator Akram Khan.
Alina Cojucaru as Giselle & Isaac Hernandez as Albrecht in Akram Khan's Giselle, photo Laurent LIotardo
Rojo compares these two radically differing takes on the story. Giselle: Belle of the Ballet offers valuable insights into the cultural and social background which informed the ballet’s creation, and examines its continued success and allure.
The hour-long documentary includes demonstrations, analysis and interviews.
Khan, mythologist Marina Warner, music director Gavin Sutherland and historian David Allen are among the prestigious contributors offering fresh insights into this ballet phenomenon.
What’s more, ENB dancers Alina Cojocaru, Cesar Corrales, Isaac Hernández and James Streeter – and Rojo herself – feature in some exquisite performance footage.
A must-watch documentary for long-time ballet fans and newcomers alike.
|What||Giselle: Belle of the Ballet, BBC Four|
On 02 Apr 17, Available on iPlayer after transmission