Whatever your knowledge of ballet, it would be hard not to be impressed by the expression and artistry created by the St Petersburg Classic Ballet during their production of Giselle performed at the Hawth in Crawley last night and currently on a nationwide tour.
The fusion of the orchestra and dancers was effortless and certainly told the story of the 19th century romantic ballet, so much so that in the first act, an audience new to ballet would not need to know the story line.
The colourful first act, set within a Rhineland village, sees the celebration of the wine harvest where courting between a peasant girl, Giselle and Albrecht commences. However also vying for Giselle’s attention is Hilarion, a local gamekeeper, who discovers Albrecht’s true identity as a Duke.
Hilarion continues his plight to attract Giselle and as the Prince and his daughter, whom Albrecht is betroth, visit the village, Albrecht hides to protect his identity. This secret, discovered by Hilarion, is shared with Giselle who refuses to believe it is true until the Prince’s daughter confirms it. Distraught by this heart break, the health of Giselle falters and she dies.
The second act, for those new to ballet, needs an understanding of the story to be absolutely clear what is going on. It is a wonderful display of ballet discipline in a far more elegant way as the company move as one with beautiful symmetry and the principle dancers have the opportunity to give individual performances which are stunning.
As the story continues Giselle’s grave has been set in a wood haunted by the Wilis, ghosts of unmarried women who kill men who enter the wood during darkness hours. This is where knowledge of the story is needed as this is difficult to interpret without but gives opportunity to see beautifully choreographed dances in pristine white ballet costume; classic ballet at its best.
Both Hilarion and Albrecht enter at differing points during the act. Hilarion becomes entangled in the Wilis and dances until weakened to a point where he too passes. As the ghost of Giselle is seen by Albrecht he follows her and dances with her almost to a point of exhaustion until daylight appears when Giselle and the Wilis depart. Heartbroken and guilt ridden Albrecht realises that the love between himself and Giselle, expressed through the dance has kept him alive.
This tour has already performed to sold out theatres and is the Saint Petersburg ballet company’s first UK tour. I would highly recommend catching any further performances and if you can’t appreciate the ballet there are plenty of other eye catching glimpses to look out for. The performance is suitable for all age groups and appreciation levels of technical ballet knowledge.
Reviewer : Julie Warwick