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Alexei Ratmansky's Giselle


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On 1/29/2020 at 7:14 PM, Drew said:

The Church is in clear view, so I sort of wondered if her grave wasn't simply at the far edge of the Churchyard, but perhaps there is another explanation...

I interpreted it the opposite way--that the church was on the far side of the lake that Hans/Hilarion gets tossed into, emphasizing that Giselle was buried at a distance from it. 

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14 hours ago, California said:

Ratmansky just posted on  Facebook a link to the last 16-minutes of Act II, including the Fugue:


Thank you very much, California.

Here’s a recent interview with Olga Smirnova in Russian. Starting about midway she discusses this Giselle. (I used a Google translation and it seems pretty good. If you just translate a couple paragraphs at a time, I think that you get a more accurate result. The less you put in at one time, probably the better).

She says a few interesting things about the production. Somewhere, someone asked whether she had much of her own input into her interpretation. Here she states that Alexei Ratmansky was in charge of every detail of the entire production. She says that he first had her do a run-through as she would do it. Then he introduced what he already had in mind and that is how it was done. He told her that he wanted to see how she would do it and then he would better understand how to guide her to his intent. This doesn’t exclude the possibility that if he liked what he saw her do he might use it, but apparently he stuck to his original concepts, for the most part, throughout the entire production. She says that she respects him greatly for his ability to do this.

She does add that in some of the source material the Wilis were actually bacchanal-like. In fact, Giselle was supposed to do a seductive dance to lure Albrecht away from his shelter. The possibility of using this sort of interpretation was abandoned during the course of the rehearsals. Considering that this solo/duet is perhaps the most beautiful part of current productions, this was probably a very good decision.


(Thanks to Ballet Friends forum from Russia)

Edited by Buddy
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Thank you both for the links.  Have you tried the translator for Microsoft edge?  From the icon in the address bar it's 1 click  and does the entire page.  

I see similarities to Cuba for willis and Myrtha and the concept of the Albrecht diagonal - no entrechats or brises.  


Edited by maps
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18 hours ago, maps said:

I see similarities to Cuba for willis and Myrtha and the concept of the Albrecht diagonal - no entrechats or brises.   


Definitely. And remember the Cuban version comes from a very old link to those first Giselles in London in the 1930's.  Dolin himself kept revisiting and retouching the production and personally rehearsing Alonso herself for important performances up to 1980, when Vasiliev went to Havana to dance with her. And Mary Skeaping staged her own version in Havana in the 1950's. Much of her input was erased by Dolin later on, but some stuff stayed. She even staged the Fugue Des Willis back then, but it did not survived after Dolin took over.

There are definitely many aspects I was very familiar with from Alonso/Dolin version.

1- The elbow bending/arm covering of the Willis face while running.

2- Berthe's mime 

3- The fast music ending. When I heard for the first time the for-Pavlova rearranging of the finale with the slow music-( first time I saw Giselle at the MET back in 2001)- I was puzzled.

4- The initial choreo for the "Gallop", in act I. Wrist bending for the girls.

5- The Willis turning their back and rejecting Giselle and Albrecht after Myrtha's branch breaks when she tries to curse them next to the cross.

Edited by cubanmiamiboy
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 I am not sure that I gained a lot from seeing Bathilde and the Duke of Courland arrive on horse however authentic that may be theatrically and socially. It was interesting to encounter a sympathetic Bathilde rather than the cold and aloof creature one is used to seeing in Bow Street. I know that this is an attempt to capture something of the flavour of the ballet as a nineteenth century creation and it is almost certainly authentic but I am not sure that Hans/ Hilarion's characterisation as a peasant clod adds much to the mixture. However I suppose that if Bathilde is to be played more naturally and sympathetically rather than as an unfeeling aristocrat then someone else has to be presented as an unsympathetic character. It was a pleasant change to see the peasant pas de deux danced as just that rather than being hacked about to provide opportunities for more than two dancers. The thing that struck me most about the first act was that the mime sequence used in the reconstruction is shorter and simpler than the version which the Royal Ballet has been performing since the 1960's. According to the company's performance records  its current version was introduced in the production which Ashton and Karsavina staged in 1960. This mime sequence which the company has retained in subsequent productions is the version which Karsavina said was performed during her time with the Mariinsky. In it Berthe not only has the opportunity to warn Giselle of the threat which her love of dance poses for her but to provide the assembled peasants with a full account of the way in which the Wilis force unwary men to dance themselves to death. In the mime sequence Berthe demonstrates the confrontation between an unwary traveller and a Wili playing both characters. I can't help wondering when Ratmansky's version of the mime sequence became the norm ?

I found the second act extraordinarily effective and was more than happy to see the loss of the pressage lift which is little more than a twentieth century technical trick which adds nothing to the ballet aesthetically or dramatically.  The lift which replaced it is far more attractive and aesthetically in keeping with the rest of the choreography. I felt that when I saw Ball perform it when he took over as Albrecht mid performance at Covent Garden not so long ago. I didn't feel then that I had been cheated by not seeing what has become the Giselle cliche lift  or in this streamed performance. Its replacement looks far more stylistically appropriate in a ballet in which those performing the choreography should be more concerned with the creation of atmosphere and mood than having opportunities for technical display. I have to say that I was pleased to see a production which fell back on the use of nineteenth century stage technology with Giselle showering Albrecht with flowers from a tree rather than all but handing them to him. While there were elements which did not entirely convince me such as the cross formation of the Wilis which, as I understand it, has its source in Justament's notebooks I should love to have the opportunity to see the production live. I hope that it is one of the productions which the Bolshoi bring with them next time the company visits Covent Garden. It was good to have the opportunity to see a Romantic ballet text treated with respect and to have the opportunity to go on Ratmansky's artistic voyage of exploration.

Edited by Ashton Fan
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I've watched this many times during this hideous lockdown, and I agree with all previous assessments. This staging is a total winner. A cornerstone in this ballet's history. As many have observed, the most radical aspect of it , dramatically, is for the audience to be presented with this totally different design of Bathilde, who morphs from the well known high nosed, cold princess to a concerned and warm noble woman who doesn't show any sign of being too affected by his fiance's bachelor stunt with a sickly, fragile peasant girl. When both Giselle and her are pointing at their fingers, indicating that they are both linked to the same man, she doesn't look as if she feels threatened by her nemesis whatsoever.  Bathilde discovers the affair, and still she knows that this girl is no competition for her. Even further...she shows pity for her...she feels sorry for her. That and the fact that she, along the whole court, stays during the entire mad and death scene, is quite a statement.  Many modern productions have her and the court abandon the scene in its beginning, leaving only the peasants onstage.  Very interesting.

The final scene of Act II is quite the main dish among the recreated additions.  I have read accounts of the original libretto stating that Bathilde witnesses the whole exchange and farewell in between Albrecht and Giselle.  I even recall that they describe her kneeling and trembling while watching.  Ratmansky doesn't really places her during the exchange, but rather have her come into the stage right after Giselle has been swallowed by the earth, but he clearly follows the original idea of Giselle reminding Albrecht that he has a moral duty to marry Bathilde, to whom he should go. By having Albrecht reach the hand of Bathilde at the end, Ratmansky totally breaks the sacrosanct XX century image of a lonely and sorrowful Albrecht closing the ballet. Brilliant.

I'm still very confused about Giselle being taken to the grass instead of going back to her grave. What is this...? Does she cease to be a Willi..? Is that a hint that she becomes corporeal...? Wat's your take on this...?

Also...does anybody knows at what point in history did the idea of having Bathilde in the final scene disappeared ? Did it even make it to Petipa's re staging...? In any of the books of Markova-(quite the earliest direct link to the original Imperial version)- she mentions anything about it.


Edited by cubanmiamiboy
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