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Yui Sugawara as Giselle. Photo: Sasha Onyshchenko.

Dance Review: Giselle at the NAC—04.04.19 to 04.06.19

By Madeline Paiva on April 7, 2019

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal’s Giselle at the National Arts Centre is an absolutely stunning depiction of the classical ballet. The production maintains numerous classical aspects but also includes an interesting modernization. While the costuming remains very typical to the classic ballet, the addition of on-stage projection adds a new dimension. The projection of the seasons, inclusive of fields of flowers at one moment, and a dark forest at the next, was a beautiful pairing to the piles of flowers on stage in the first act.

The costume choices were absolutely phenomenal.

The second act, although simply set, adds to the tragedy of the story. The lighting becomes dimmer, the projection becomes a dark forest, the flowers have disappeared, and Giselle’s tombstone appears. The colourful and joyful flowers on stage have returned only in a small pile on the tomb. The live orchestra adds to the beauty of the classical piece, allowing the audience to further connect with the music.

The costume choices were absolutely phenomenal. The first act, cheery and full of life, has costumes that are colourful and bright, coordinated between the men and women. When Célestin Boutin mentioned the first act being a party in our interview, he truly meant it. It is lively, with people dancing and celebrating, a true depiction of young lovers. Whereas the second act turns tragic—the costuming of the Wilis, the white tutus, is beautiful and simplistic. The costuming gives off the air of tragic love—these women died of broken hearts before marriage, leaving them to summon men after their deaths. The dancing is peaceful and graceful, while these young almost-lovers surround the living on stage.

The live orchestra adds to the beauty of the classical piece, allowing the audience to further connect with the music.

The ballet is such a beautiful illustration of the tensions between life and death. While the Wilis try to summon Albrecht, he and Giselle have very intimate moments on stage. Likewise, the scene with Hilarion and the Wilis has Hilarion running around the stage, with grande jetés and leaps. There is a lingering despair of loss; each of these lovers has lost a love they had grown so attached to and they attempt, at numerous moments, to restore that love. The moments with Giselle, played by Yui Sugawara on April 4th, and the Wilis are beautiful in that they demand attention. The synchronicity in both the identical costumes between the women and the dancing itself is reminiscent of a childlike grace.

The dance “battles” for Giselle’s love between Albrecht and Hilarion are wonderful. April 4th’s performance saw Alessio Scognamiglio as Albrecht and Célestin Boutin as Hilarion. The dynamic of the two on stage was phenomenal—both of them had such high energy, it truly felt like they were fighting for Giselle. The intensity in the music changes at each of these moments, emphasizing the dynamic between the two.

The dancers make it look so easy, with the seemingly weightless lifting, and gentility of their landings.

Each of these dancers is incredible, whether dancing a solo, or synchronized with the rest of the company: the lines remain clean and the talent unquestionable. At various moments of Giselle, the stage is busy with different people doing different things; however, the cohesiveness remains intact. The dancers make it look so easy, with the seemingly weightless lifting, and gentility of their landings. The lines throughout the show are beautiful, with each of the dancers in synch, demanding the attention of the audience. The final scene of the show feels like a dream. The lighting has descended briefly, the projection turns white and then black and the vision becomes hazy, as the audience sees Albrecht dancing alone on stage.

Without wanting to spoil too much, the ending is absolutely gut-wrenching, leaving me, and many others, in tears. This show is so beautiful and, yet, so tragic. If you have the chance, I would wholeheartedly recommend seeing it!

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