Can a person dance to death? Not according to Giselle, who spends her days dancing. She dances when she is happy. She dances when she is sad. She dances to celebrate her love for the young and beautiful Loys. But when Giselle discovers that Loys is in fact Duke Albrecht and betrothed to another woman, she goes mad with grief and dances until her weak heart gives out. The following night, Giselle’s spirit is roused from the dead by Myrtha, who leads the band of Wilis—maidens betrayed by their lovers and abandoned before their wedding days, who in death extract their revenge by forcing the men they encounter to dance until they die of exhaustion.
After its premiere in Paris in 1841 with librettists Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier, Giselle became over the years an essential classic of the romantic repertoire choreographed by some of the most legendary ballet masters. For the Ballet of the OnR, Martin Chaix serves up a resolutely contemporary interpretation that chimes with current issues. Gone are the tutus, wedding dresses and pasteboard cottages: the characters in this feminist Giselle dance in biker jackets and tuxedos in an urban setting but no less passionately to the music composed by Adolphe Adam and his contemporary Louise Farrenc.