This version of Giselle, re-imagined by Ballet Ireland in modern dress is bound to cause controversy between traditionalists and modernists. You may love it or hate it but this reviewer falls some way in-between, loving much of the Gothic second act, but finding fault with the first act's uneasy balance of realism and classical dance.
You may love it or hate it
The choreographer, Ludovic Ondiviela, formerly dancer and choreographer of the Royal Ballet, dispenses with the tedious peasants' dance and hones in straight to the disastrous relationship between Hilarion (Rodolfo Saraiva) and Giselle (Ana Enriquez-Gonzalez): all false smiles from her and humiliation for him as she immediately ignores him for the duplicitous Albrecht. The problem is that the treatment is so superficial, the dancing so stiff, it is hard to empathise. Things liven up considerably as a crowd of tourists enters amusingly taking selfies, a nice contemporary touch. The action moves swiftly to a crime scene.
In the crowd's mêlée it is unclear how Giselle dies – of a heart attack as in the original version, we presume, only to realize the truth as Bathilde (Albrecht's fiancee) is silhouetted behind a screen holding up a knife: a terrific image which somewhat compensates for the earlier confusion. In the police interrogation scenes that follow Bathilde, performed by Ryoko Yagya, is a brilliant actor as well as dancer, radiating evil in her facial contortions. However, the combination of realistic moves, police staff putting up identikit photos or coming in to put a paper on the chief's table, walking in realistically and then unaccountably performing arabesques or other classical moves just because they can, and creating the cardinal sin of bit parts taking attention away from the main characters results in a ludicrous misalliance of modern and classical.
The second act however, set in a morgue, redeems the ballet. The Wilis, unlike in the traditional version, include males allowing for lifts. Covered in veils, faces painted white, they are superbly Gothic creations. The sheer beauty of the classical moves and particularly the en pointe performed backwards by Ryoko Yagya, now playing the part of a Wili drifting across the stage, has a breath-taking brilliance. Ana Enriquez-Gonzalez's choreography is also technically more interesting and emotionally moving. Rodolfo Saraiva (Hilarion) and Mario Gaglione (Albrecht) the two male leads now too come into their own. This act a satisfactory ending to a shaky first act start which will surely please both traditonalists and modernists.