October 29, 2021 | LIFE | By Carlee Castillo | Illustration by Kira Schulist
Returning after nearly two years of an imposed hiatus, the Colorado Ballet presented the infamous Ballet, “Giselle.” The ballet ran from Oct. 8 to Oct. 17 at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House of Denver, a theater which includes a myriad of attractions, including a full bar and gift shop.
“Giselle” revolves around the titular village girl. The primary act contains the majority of the plot, detailing the love and betrayal of Giselle and her lover, Count Albrécht. Believing her suitor to be a fellow villager, Giselle accepts Count Albrécht’s proposal, only to later discover the falsehood of his identity. It turns out that Count Albrécht is not a single peasant as Giselle believed, but rather a royal count previously engaged to another woman. This realization drives Giselle to insanity and death due to a broken heart.
In Act II, Giselle becomes a ghost, or Willi as they’re referred to in the ballet. The Willis, a group of ghostly women whose past lovers had scorned them during life, kill any man that crosses their path by forcing them to dance until they die. Giselle, forgiving the count in death, attempts to protect her former lover from the Willis’ wrath. Due to her efforts, Count Albrécht escapes demise. However, he and Giselle remain separated as a result of his previous acts of betrayal.
The ending contradicts that of a typical fairytale. Love and heroism do not free the protagonists from the consequences of their actions. Rather, Giselle remains dead and mistreated, while her prince remains alive and grieving.
The story of “Giselle” refutes the exultation of perfection that remains so ingrained in the ballet community. Although technical refinement endures as a pillar of ballet performance, “Giselle” exemplifies the beauty of untidiness. For example, in Giselle’s mad scene, in which she is thrown into a fit of grief due to her separation from Count Albrécht, pointed toes and turned-out legs are decentralized. The erratic movements and bewildered expressions of Giselle are much more integral to the portrayal of her disillusionment.
Although the de-staging of technical perfection in Giselle’s mad scene can be interpreted as empowering, the potentially damaging archetype of female madness prevails. In romantic tragedies and dramas, it is typically women who are driven to insanity, implying inherent frailness and delicacy. For instance, Shakespeare similarly presents the character of Ophelia in his infamous play, later developed into a ballet, “Hamlet.”
Regardless of “Giselle’s” implications, The Colorado Ballet’s performance inspired awe. From the intricate costumes to the decadent set designs, “Giselle” offered a voyage into a realm of elegance. Not only did the show impress aesthetically, but it also reunified the audience and dancers alike.
Gil Boggs, Artistic Director for Colorado Ballet, described the unique experience of online ballet: “Last year, we taught the entire ballet to the company on Zoom while they were in their 10 by 12 spaces, kitchens, living rooms, whatever. So, when we were able to come back in early August, come into the studio, start teaching it in-person, it was a lot more fun that way.” In addition to technique, another pedestal of ballet is community. As demonstrated through the village in “Giselle”, the Colorado Ballet company, and the patrons of the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, camaraderie inspires even more wonder than a perfectly executed arabesque.