Célestin Boutin, a twenty-three year old soloist at Les Grands Ballets is dancing the role of Hilarion in Giselle. I had a chance to speak with him on the phone about the upcoming production. This is the first company Boutin has been a part of and he details that “the company used to be more contemporary. The new director is bringing more classical stuff, which is a big change for the dancers. I think it’s good that we have a contemporary technique to use with the classical to feel more free.” The company is diverse in both their talent and their focus. Boutin says that “as a dancer, too, I would say it’s a very hard job. All of our lives we’ve been judged on our physique and dancing. Les Grands Ballets accepts a lot of different people, and bodies. The power of this company is that we are all different!”
We have a lot to say. We can say words and words are strong but emotion without saying anything is really strong.—Célestin Boutin, soloist at Les Grands Ballets
The story of Giselle is quite a tragic one. Giselle falls in love with Duke Albrecht who reciprocates her love, but who, unbeknownst to her, is married. She falls into a spiral of madness and dies, joining the wilis, young maidens who have died before marriage, to haunt Albrecht. “Hilarion is in love with her. The thing is, she doesn’t want him,” notes Boutin. Without wanting to spoil too much of the show, Boutin says “The beginning, I really love it. People are having a party—very fun, a lot of joy. The second half is very dramatic.”
Les Grands Ballet brings the classic story of Giselle but modernizes it with new visual components to compliment the sets. When asked what to expect from the show, Boutin said “a modern production. We are going to have projection on stage. It is a very modern set. We rehearsed on stage and it’s really beautiful. We keep all the classical, but in a modern way.”
Without wanting to spoil too much of the show, Boutin says “The beginning, I really love it. People are having a party—very fun, a lot of joy. The second half is very dramatic.”
The show brings a particular sense of realism for both the audience and the dancers. “As an artist, to be on stage dancing with our colleagues is amazing and you start to believe it. I am no longer Célestin, I am Hilarion. With the role that I’m doing, I didn’t know I could do it—he’s very dark. I’m not a very dark person, and it allowed me to discover a bit of my dark side. When you are in a role, you start to become this person and it’s sometimes difficult to go back to reality,” Boutin says.
When asked what new spectators of dance should do to ensure a good experience, Boutin addressed the preconceived notions people have about ballet. He says, “the thing is, it’s always a tricky question because people have this thing in their brains about ballet, with guys wearing tutus and thinking this is boring. We make it look very easy and yet we’re working all day. People don’t realize, most dancers are injured and in pain.” There is a visual brilliance to ballet that cannot be ignored and Boutin says “we have a lot to say. We can say words and words are strong but emotion without saying anything is really strong.”
His final note of advice, “I think it’s always good to start with a ballet and then go to more contemporary shows.” With that, come see the modern and classical brilliance of Giselle, this is a performance you will want to see!
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s Giselle is happening at the National Arts Centre April 4 to 6 at 8pm. The performance runs approximately 1 hour and 55 minutes, including intermission. Tickets are available online and range from $29 to $126. Student discounts and live rush tickets are available.