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Leigh Witchel

The final pas d'action

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I'm just wondering if anyone had ever heard any of these explanations of certain actions during Act II. I don't even know where or from whom I heard them.

There is a "calling" motion Giselle makes at a certain point in her pas d'action with Albrecht as she piques away from her cross and the grave. I was told that she was, at Myrtha's insistence, attempting to get Albrecht away from the cross, where he was safe. Also, that the small series of carries Albrecht does back and forth across the stage with Giselle are actually Giselle attempting to conceal his exhaustion from Myrtha.

Does anyone have any idea where these might have come from? Maybe Dolin's book? These two facts also seem contradictory, but they illustrate Giselle's state as a novitiate Wili as it were - half under Myrtha's command, but still in love with Albrecht.

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i've heard both of those, but i don't know where they come from...

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Could the beconing gesture just mean: "come on and dance,I know you can do it. Don't just kneel there. I'll help."??? If Leigh is refering to the same moment I'm thinking of, it's after he's danced and is kneeling downstage right??? Giselle's grave is USUALLY there - but not always.

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I don't have Beaumont's book on "Giselle" any more -- I loaned it to a forgetful friend :)-- but I think that's where I first learned about the "beckoning" gesture. It's not really contradictory.

Giselle is a Wili. She is Myrtha's servant. Myrtha's objective is to kill Albrecht. Giselle tries to save him BUT she is under Myrtha's spell.

She takes him to the cross -- as several people have pointed out on another thread. This is why the grave has to be in the forest, where the Wilis live, and why Hilarion comes, in a scene now generally cut, to make a cross to put on her grave. Because she died unshriven -- did not receive the last rites, suicide or not -- she could not be buried in the churchyard. I think all of this would have been understood in an instant by the good Catholics of Paris.

Giselle gets Albrecht to the cross, which will block Myrtha's power. Myrtha, then, has to get Albrecht away from the cross and orders Giselle to dance. Giselle's dance is supposed to be so seductive (classically speaking) that it lures Albrecht away from the cross, so that Myrtha can get him. It's all very well worked out. Sometimes the dancers aren't told these things, though, and don't tell the story; they just dance it.

The first time I saw the "beckoning" was in Alonso's performance in DC, when she was 60. Other ballerinas used a vestigial gesture, at best. The role of Giselle can be extremely complex -- she loves to dance, her "natural feminine instinct" (pagan) is to be seductive, yet her Christianity gives her charity and she wants to forgive Albrecht, because she loves him and he has shown repentance. Very few ballerinas can show that conflict. Fracci did it beautifully.

The parts where Giselle dances with Albrecht, I was told too early in my balletgoing to source it, was indeed that she "spelled" him -- gave him a break (not Albrecht the dancer, who, of course, has to work just as hard to partner her, but Albrecht the Albrecht, whose perpetuum mobile is broken by Giselle's own dancing.

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I was told differently. After staying on her grave with Albrecht, Giselle goes to the centre to dance herself and even stops Albrecht to follow her. He can't tolerate it too long, he joins her and together they ask Willis to leave them alone.

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Andrei, often productions change for very good reasons. I wonder if the Christian symbolism was downplayed in Russia after the 1920s?

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Well, we still had crosses on the stage and on real cemeteries ...

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Perhaps it's because mime became so out of fashion. The first world-class Giselle I saw was Makarova, and her second act was an abstract ballet, to me -- very emotional, but very little mime. That's why Alonso's obvious beckoning was so startling -- what I had thought was port de bras was now a gesture.

Not to say one is right and one is wrong, just that there are differences. One of the most moving "Giselles" I ever saw was Nina Ananiashvili and Alexei Fadeyechev's (Bolshoi) here at Wolf Trap -- an outdoor performing arts park, so you're seeing a "Giselle" in the woods, which helps the atmosphere tremendously. Their second act was a concerto, just emotions, no specific acitons. Love, death, sorrow, forgiveness, redemption, all of those things were suggested, but what you got was a very generalized picture of two people meant for each other and everything went wrong. And it worked.

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