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Subject: "Guillem's Giselle" Archived thread - Read only
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Isobel Houghton

15-08-01, 04:07 AM (GMT)
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"Guillem's Giselle"
   Guillem’s Giselle – A Giselle half scored

I’ve been pondering why, for me at least, Guillem’s Giselle for La Scala was such a totally unaffecting production, a failure, an honourable one, but a failure none the less. Guillem is unequivocally a magnificent artist, her intentions valid, intelligent, well rounded and the product of knowing the ballet from the inside out and the outside in. In trying to find an answer, I have had to move beyond the obvious tack of drawing comparisons between this and traditional productions, and analyse what Giselle as a ballet means to me, and look at it both dramatically and historically.

Leaving aside the technical capabilities of La Scala, (it was obvious that this company was at Covent Garden under the auspices of the Guillem name. This is not a criticism, stars have had a long tradition of guaranteeing companies bookings on the back of their glamour), this was still a Giselle that was half-cooked and half scored.

Much is made of the two acts of Giselle, the physical versus the temporal, corporal against spiritual. But it is more than this. Structurally Giselle is an innovative masterpiece of style and form, marrying disparate theatre styles under one banner. The first act is an almost perfect example of classical tragedy in form and content. The downfall of a great man/woman which is inevitable from the start, yet unavoidable. This downfall usually includes a fall of grace from God, and indeed Giselle’s suicide and the classical notion of this being a pre-requisite for damnation fits this mould. However, the second act is actually quite innovative in that it allows the damned protagonists of the first act to seek and gain redemption. It is in the romantic form to be true, and the concept of the redeeming nature of love is a romantic one, yet love is an eternal concept in drama. The two acts are marked by light and dark, good and evil, a non-descript peasant hamlet the corporal, light, a day in high summer, and a generic woodland night scene. Guillem seemed to intentionally reverse the concept of lighting in both acts. The first act was a Giselle by Breughel, the mad scene was underlit to the point where facial features and reactions were almost imperceptible (and I was sitting in the stalls), whereas the second act with its redemptive love was bathed in blue light. As a means of establishing a sense of pathetic fallacy with the theme of each act this was valid, yet detracted from the true genius of the dramatic impact of Giselle, the dance. For Giselle is almost a Christ-like figure rejoicing in her love through dance.

Now to the score. Giselle is blessed with Adam’s genius use of music. It is as detailed as a libretto. The music tells the drama. In his pioneering use of the leitmotif Adam predated the work of Wagner by almost 30 years. Moreover, it is a perfectly contained work in its own right. As music to a two-act ballet is doesn’t have the wallpaper requirements that Tchaikovsky, say, had to compose for court dances, variations etc etc. Part of the key to making a great Giselle is the ability to open oneself to the music, letting the music live and tell the tale. However, Guillem seemed to have demanded that the score be conducted at a lightning pace. In her production Guillem strives for verite by cutting the choreography to its bare bones in order to give prominence to the drama. However, she does this by castrating the one great help that anyone wishing to reinvent Giselle could possibly hope for – the music. It is here that I will take issue with certain of La Scala dancers. Massimo Murru was an Albrecht of wood-like charisma, was he or Francesco Ventriglia listening to the music as the revelation of Albrecht’s aristocratic roots was being played out in a singularly underwhelming fashion?

Now, the essential question of the character of Giselle. Let’s face it Giselle in act one is not the sharpest tool in the box. She is the personification of innocence, a creature consecrated to love. She is a child with a child’s comprehension of what it is to love. One can say that she loves unconditionally, yet this is not true, unconditional implies an awareness of what those conditions imposed might be. She loves innocently, and there lies the true crime of Albrecht’s – he kills innocence, and he does so knowingly. Albrecht while not evil commits an act of evil, and it is this that he must redeem himself of in act two. Giselle’s fate is sealed from the moment she steps out of her cottage. However, if it had not been Albrecht it would have been another. Remember Giselle’s mother has seen this all before, it is the knowledge of how vulnerable her daughter is, that leads Berthe to mistrust Albrecht posing as Loys, on first sight. Much is made that a great Giselle must distinguish between the physical and spiritual of the two acts. I would argue that this is not totally correct. The irony is that the dead Giselle of act two actually has a greater awareness of what it truly means to love someone totally as a grown woman, than the first act girl. In act two she is a woman. With a woman’s yearning awareness of the deep sorrow that love can carry. In her end is her beginning. Now, Guillem’s Giselle was a very sexual creature, at one point she initiates a passionate kiss with Albrecht, fair enough, however, the sexuality shown undercuts the mad scene and the possibility of suicide as a viable dramatic concept, or totally believable one. The character of Bathilde is essential in Giselle’s downfall, her sophistication, her poise, her breeding and the notion that here is a woman completely aware of her sexuality. In Guillem’s production the meeting was almost a meeting of equals, as such the unbearable, excruciating pathos of Giselle’s touching of Bathilde’s dress was lost. Moreover, Bathilde’s disgust at Albrecht was lessened. Giselle realises that in terms of natural gifts she is hopelessly outclassed by Bathilde, the only force she has on her side is love and that has been proven to be worthless. In Guillem’s the scene was almost as generic as any “other woman” drama when it reaches the moment of revelation.

In pursuit of dramatic realism Guillem has relegated Berthe to the sidelines along with the mime scene, possibly the greatest and most famous passage of balletic mime in any ballet. In lesser artist’s hands the mime can be hackneyed, yet in the hands of a great mime artist (Marion Tait springs to recent memory) it is chilling and indeed necessary. Don’t forget even in this 19th century hamlet the belief in the supernatural is waning, Berthe is tolerated, as a venerable member of her community, to tell, once again, the story of the wilis. However, Giselle is embarrassed, it’s a folk tale, it’s not real, what does she need with the old stories, she’s a “modern girl” in love. It is a powerful dramatic concept leading the way for act 2. Guillem has the legend of the wilis portrayed as an almost drunken, playful comic re-enaction by several villagers. While this does update the ballet as a whole it none the less, does serious harm to the dramaturgy and makes Berthe obsolete. There are three archetypes of woman in act one, three powerful dramatic archetypes. The virgin, the mother and the whore. The virgin being Giselle, the mother Berthe and the whore Bathilde. Now I’m not saying Bathilde is a whore in the vernacular sense, but rather woman as agent provocateur, as catalyst, she is the opposite pole to Giselle. Her arrival is the beginning of Giselle’s end. Giselle the virgin, the saintly is closely identified with her mother and with the huge overwhelming love she has for her. Guillem’s Giselle was neither fish nor flesh, she was autonomous of her mother, and in her own way as confident as Bathilde, and this muddies the water of where her character lies, of what her character represents. Because Giselle is special, she is not like the other girls, ultimately she is the ideal that Albrecht must prove himself worthy of being the living memorial to – it is afterall her ballet and we must from the outset sense this by devices other than the fact that she is being played by Sylvie Guillem.

Choreographically the underplaying I could live with, although remember Giselle is a creature who expresses her love through dance, but it was Guillem’s intention to make the dance as unvirtuosic as possible and I respect this. However, in one area this fell short for me, namely in the peasant pas de deux – which was beautifully danced by Deborah Gismondi and Antonino Sutera. Guillem intentionally made what is normally a lengthy pas de six, or at the very least quatre into a dance for two. Her reason, that the lengthy nature of the piece interrupted the dramatic flow of the ballet, is true from a perspective of length, however, I feel that in saying this she hasn’t taken full stock of what the pas de six in all its glory actually achieves dramatically. Giselle is a tragedy and like the best tragedies the audience knows the downfall of the hero is inevitable, but one wishes with all ones’ heart that it not be so, that the outcome will be different. The pas de six is the last moment of unequivocal hope and happiness in the ballet. The very last moment that if the disaster is to be avoided it could happen. It is an essential plot device in delaying the narrative force of tragedy, holding off the climax, and as such in its entirety is vital, outside of the virtuosic nature of the dance. It comes before the blowing of the hunting horn by Hilarion, and the beautiful leitmotif of the aristocrats, when Giselle’s death and downfall seems to be inevitably entrapped in the allegro of the string section’s frantic playing. The delaying tactic in Guillem’s Giselle was the changing of scenery to a barn, in seeking to rely on a scenic coup de theatre rather than letting it be encapsulated in the dance, she diminished the full weight and power of her mad scene. It was rendered bathetic.

If I felt act one was valid if not entirely successful, it was act two that I take real issue with. It was remarkable for me, for being the first time I have ever enjoyed the first half more than the second.

Firstly I want to deal with the grave. Giselle’s grave is an essential dramatic device in act two. Guillem stated that she removed the cross, as Giselle would not have been allowed to be buried on hallowed ground. But she misses the point that she is not, she is buried in a wood. The cross could have been placed by those who love her, in an attempt to save her from the hell of the wilis. However, to remove the cross also confuses an audience as to what is actually happening, why Albrecht and Hilarion are there in the first place. Secondly, Guillem had Albrecht not Hilarion at the grave as the curtain opened. One can see why, it is afterall Albrecht’s struggle that act two is primarily concerned with from a male perspective. However, it makes more sense that the grieving Hilarion is drawn out of his reverie to realise with terror that night is falling. He belongs to the peasant class who still believes in the folk tales, he knows that death is in the woods. Albrecht, a nobleman ventures into the woods willingly at night. He is aristocratic, educated, he does not believe in ghosts and ghouls. Indeed as an answer to the cross issue, one could even assume it was the grieving Hilarion who could not bear that his beloved Giselle be buried without a cross and so ventured into the woods to plant it above her unmarked grave.
Thirdly, the cross unequivocally allies Giselle with God, with goodness, in her fight against the wilis, it is the device by which she buys Albrecht time, it is also the symbol she draws strength from, stands in front of as she disobeys Myrtha, who recoils in pain and shock at the one force she is vulnerable to, love.
The position of the cross downstage destroyed much of the dynamics of the dance. Upstage it gives us the whole stage as the arena in which the battle for Albrecht’s life and Giselle’s soul can be danced and enacted on. It also puts space between the two opposing forces ruling the second act: Giselle – goodness, unconditional love and Myrtha – evil, love turned to hate.
By eradicating the bourrees of Myrtha from one side of the stage to the other at the beginning of act two, Guillem, I believe destroyed the second act. As Lynne Garafola said of the bourree “In its weightless driftings the body seems both shorn of its volition and afloat in timelessness”. Giselle was the first major ballet created after the invention of the pointe shoe, up till then a novelty, the dancing on toes was transmogrified into art in this ballet. The bourree, the most basic of steps, is used to personify the weightlessness of Myrtha, the mystical nature of the wilis. By having Myrtha and her two attendants bourree behind a scrim, around rocks, the impact of what the wilis are is destroyed. We know that something terrible is to happen in act two, we know horrors exist in the woods and then we get Myrtha’s transcendentally beautiful music as this exquisite creature bourrees, majestically, mystically across the stage, we the audience were wrong, there is no horror only beauty, And then we learn that the beauty is the horror, evil personified. It is a stunning coup de theatre, and gives the battle of Giselle all the more poignancy. That Guillem missed the potential for this passage is sad, it was a real error of judgement.

Curiously in seeking to proscribe a character to each wili, an individual threat of evil they became less threatening, and their intent unclear. It was if a psychopathic enclave of Brides and Bridesmaids models circa 1950 had come to life. The corps dancing was very bad; however, La Scala is not a company in the league of the Kirov, Royal or Paris Opera, so making the corps ununiform in appearance only served to highlight the deficiencies in their dancing. But all this would have been fine if it had worked as a dramatic device. Guillem states that she wanted to highlight the battle between Giselle and Myrtha, yet the battle was diluted as from the outset the wilis and Giselle all seemed to have autonomy.

The biggest choreographic crime came in the first pas de deux between Giselle and Albrecht, when she appears before him and seeing her he dances with her, fully aware she is there. This pas de deux works when lost in grief Albrecht is not sure she is there or not, he feels her, but is it his love, his grief which he is dancing with or is her ghost truly present? And then come the blossoms raining down on Albrecht in benediction, forgiveness, it is a moment that chills the soul. When Albrecht broken free of his reverie finds the blossoms which were not there before, he has hope, hope that he is worthy of forgiveness. It is a moment of transcendental beauty, to claim it unmodern, outmoded needing of revision is wrong. It makes his fight to stay alive all the more poignant, his life has been pardoned by Giselle, it is not Myrtha’s place to steal it. However, it is the first of his two battles, it is a spiritual cleansing, coming immediately before the physical torture Myrtha subjects him to. By the end of the ballet he will be spiritually and physically pardoned. He will have earned both these blessings from Giselle.

It is here I would like to quickly mention Mats Ek’s Giselle. Of all his reworkings his Giselle is the best, as he has tampered almost not at all with the essential story. However, in the second act his cleansing goes no further than his learning to forgive himself and see the error of his ways, as Giselle still alive is lobotomised, and he must earn all forgiveness without her benediction. It for me is an example of how the contemporary actually says far less, goes far less deeply into the psychological than the original it was seeking to update.

Again Guillem’s choreographic minimalism diminishes, not adds to the narrative. Gone are the sweeping developpes symbolising Giselle’s yearning upward desire for love. Slowed down are her hops in attitude, as she appears for the first time as a wili, no longer a woman, but a whirling dervish, a demon. Those fast turns symbolising the evil she has been delivered to and must fight to be free of.

And finally, surprisingly Guillem has Giselle return to the wilis after having saved Albrecht. In Giselle one must have the feeling that through Giselle’s act of selfless, adult unconditional love and forgiveness, she in fact has freed herself from the wilis spell. She will return to her grave and rest. This reading also gives far more weight to Guillem’s stated intention to have wanted to highlight the battle between Giselle and Myrtha. By freeing Giselle from the wilis at the end, the drama unequivocally shows the difference between love and hate, the battle between the two opposing spiritual forces. I was surprised that Guillem chose to ignore this. What matters Giselle’s saving of her love, if the next night her spirit will prowl the woods in search of men to kill?

Giselle like all fairytales exists and continues to do so due to the fact that a fairytale is an allegory containing within its drama powerful archetypes, letting the reader decide the symbols for themselves. We know that folk and fairytales carry eternal, psychological truths and messages within their fantastical structure. It is the relevance of allegory to each subsequent generation that ensures their continuance. They exist through implication, allegory and the emotional and psychological resonance that is implicit and individual for each person who comes across them. By baldly stating the truths, the sub texts, and in seeking to make the timeless “modern” one tears the passion to tatters and renders the moral crass and simplistic. Giselle that most resonant, relevant and paradoxically ethereal of fairytale ballets is no exception. By giving a definite, psychologically exact reading Guillem renders much of the beauty and modern relevance mundane and in places not just a little crass.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Guillem's Giselle Renee Renouf 15-08-01 1
  RE: Guillem's Giselle lara 15-08-01 2
  RE: Guillem's Giselle Bruceadmin 15-08-01 3
  RE: Guillem's Giselle Tim Powell 15-08-01 4
     RE: Guillem's Giselle Mary Cargill 15-08-01 5
         RE: Guillem's Giselle lara 15-08-01 6
             RE: Guillem's Giselle Isobel Houghton 15-08-01 7
                 RE: Guillem's Giselle Lara 15-08-01 8
                     RE: Guillem's Giselle sylvia 15-08-01 9
                         RE: Guillem's Giselle lara 16-08-01 11
             RE: Guillem's Giselle Mary Cargill 16-08-01 13
  RE: Guillem's Giselle Anneliese 15-08-01 10
     RE: Guillem's Giselle Charles 16-08-01 12
         RE: Guillem's Giselle Anneliese 16-08-01 14
             RE: Guillem's Giselle Charles 16-08-01 15
                 RE: Guillem's Giselle Kevin Ng 17-08-01 16
                 RE: Guillem's Giselle Anneliese 17-08-01 18
                 RE: Guillem's Giselle Anneliese 17-08-01 19
                     RE: Guillem's Giselle Charles 19-08-01 20
                         RE: Guillem's Giselle Lara 19-08-01 21
                             RE: Guillem's Giselle Charles 19-08-01 22
                             RE: Guillem's Giselle lara 19-08-01 23
                             RE: Guillem's Giselle Chales 20-08-01 25
                             Point of Moderation Bruce Madmin 20-08-01 26
                             RE: Guillem's Giselle Lara 20-08-01 27
                             RE: Guillem's Giselle Isobel Houghton 31-08-01 30
                         RE: Guillem's Giselle Anneliese 20-08-01 28
                             RE: Guillem's Giselle Pete 21-08-01 29
  RE: Guillem's Giselle Bruce Madmin 17-08-01 17
  RE: Guillem's Giselle kylie9 20-08-01 24
     RE: Guillem's Giselle Miranda Wilson 22-09-01 31

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Renee Renouf

15-08-01, 04:43 AM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #0
   What an incredibly insightful, wonderful analysis.
I was particularly moved by the argument of why the
cross was there, in the middle of the woodland, as
well as the significance of the three female figures
in Act I. A really superb job which needs to be out
in hard copy.

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15-08-01, 04:45 AM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #0
   Isobel, you might want to edit this piece a bit - looks as if your computer hiccuped and repeated the story three times in all!


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15-08-01, 08:07 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #0
   yet to read.. but hopefuly I have got rid of the extra copies of the words

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Tim Powell

15-08-01, 09:46 AM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #0
   I thought this a very good piece. In fact the peasant dances to the Burgmuller music were originally performed as a pas de deux by the RB who upgraded to a pas de quatre and finally to the present six. I have seen it done for two many years ago by both the Kirov and Bolshoi.

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Mary Cargill

15-08-01, 03:27 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #4
   I agree with much of the criticism of Guillem's Giselle, which to me was just not theatrical. But Giselle was not the first major ballet to use point shoes--La Sylphide was done 10 years before, and many others came before Giselle--it is just that Giselle, thanks to Petipa, has lasted. And the peasants have traditionally danced a pas de deux. It is only in the Peter Wright, or Wrightish productions, that it is a pas de six or quatre.

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15-08-01, 04:05 PM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #5
   I have a question about Giselle's death. I was never under the impression that she killed herself intentionally, but rather in her maddned state she danced and then her heart gave out. Not something she could really predict.

Am I off in my thinking?

This was an amazing and insightful piece of dance criticism, Isobel!


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Isobel Houghton

15-08-01, 04:26 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #6
   That really depends on the production. However, in the Royal's and most nowadays as she lifts the sword and runs round the stage, as she comes to a grinding halt on that percussive dum dum dum, she stabs herself. Whether by accident or intentionally to the mentality of society in which she lives, you're damned if you do and damned if you didn't.

Certain ballerinas make a point of miming the blood cascading from her dance of death Cojocaru, Rojo and Hatley did this beautifully.

Dramatically it gives credence, weight and a vailid dramatic conclusion to the picking up of the sword in the first place, it could be interpreted in a number of ways Freudian etc etc etc

But dramatically it also makes sense of the fact that Giselle is buried on unhallowed ground, that it's her soul, not just Albrecht's life that is up for grabs in the second act.

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15-08-01, 05:34 PM (GMT)
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8. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #7
   >in the Royal's and
>most nowadays as she lifts
>the sword and runs round
>the stage, as she comes
>to a grinding halt on
>that percussive dum dum dum,
>she stabs herself....
>But dramatically it also makes sense
>of the fact that Giselle
>is buried on unhallowed ground,
>that it's her soul, not
>just Albrecht's life that is
>up for grabs in the
>second act.

Ah ha! Thank you for the explanation. I never fully understood that part with the sword. I could see her dancing with it, but never saw the stabbing part in the video I have.


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15-08-01, 06:23 PM (GMT)
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9. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #8
   I think I really must have missed something in all the times I've watched Giselle. I always got the impression that she swung the sword around and got blood on her hands from doing so, but Hilarion pulled the sword away before she could stab hereself. I thought she died from a weak heart or heartbreak. I assumed so because of Berthe's warnings to Giselle not to dance.

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16-08-01, 00:14 AM (GMT)
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11. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #9
   >I think I really must have
>missed something in all the
>times I've watched Giselle. I
>always got the impression that
>she swung the sword around
>and got blood on her
>hands from doing so, but
> Hilarion pulled the sword
>away before she could stab
>hereself. I thought she died
>from a weak heart or
>heartbreak. I assumed so because
>of Berthe's warnings to Giselle
>not to dance.

This is what I thought happened to!

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Mary Cargill

16-08-01, 03:47 PM (GMT)
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13. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #6
   According to what I have read, Giselle originally killed herself, but when the ballet was done in Russia, there were religious objections to an on-stage suicide and she died of a broken heart instead. It is the Russian version that our productions are all based on. I think she should kill herself, and then be buried on unconcencrated ground, because the wilis, who are powerless in the face of the cross, wouldn't cavort around near a churchyard.

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15-08-01, 10:04 PM (GMT)
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10. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #0
   >Guillem’s Giselle – A Giselle half
>corps dancing was very bad;
>however, La Scala is not
>a company in the league
>of the Kirov, Royal or
>Paris Opera, so making the
>corps ununiform in appearance only
>served to highlight the deficiencies
>in their dancing.

Have to take issue with this bit of your crit (much of the rest of which I thought was valid, if sweeping) - I thought that the corps way outclassed the Kirov and the RB!

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16-08-01, 12:57 PM (GMT)
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12. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #10
>Have to take issue with this
>bit of your crit (much
>of the rest of which
>I thought was valid, if
>sweeping) - I thought that
>the corps way outclassed the
>Kirov and the RB!

I really have to disagree with you Anneliese. I found La Scala corps mediocre verging on the plain bad. With some of the weakest, messiest dancing I have witnessed in a long time. Most of the girls were techincally weak (did anyone else notice those see-sawing backs everytime they attempted a grand jetee?). They exhibitied a level of proficiency on a par with a second-rate regional ballet company. We all know the only reason La Scala was at Covent Garden was due to the Guillem name, fair enough, but to suggest they "outclassed" companies such as the Royal, or the Kirov!!! is just silly.

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16-08-01, 04:27 PM (GMT)
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14. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #12
   Well, OK, I wasn't closely examining the technique of the La Scala corps (they didn't do enough dancing for that!), but they displayed perfect uniformity throughout Act 2, which is the first requirement of the corps in this ballet. The Kirov dancing was shockingly bad in the Balanchine programme that I saw - they were all over the place, no style, no uniformity, no precision, no musicality. They were a mess from start to finish. Maybe every individual dancer had good technique, but that's not the point of a good corps (OK, it should be a necessary but not a sufficient condition). They didn't dance as a seamless group, and more to the point they weren't even in time most of the evening. So as far as my experience this summer is concerned, the Kirov does not rate as a first class company; I expect artistry and musicianship of first class dancers, and I just didn't see any of that in the corps. Both I and my companion came away distinctly underwhelmed by Serenade and Symphony in C.

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16-08-01, 06:02 PM (GMT)
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15. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #14
   Anneliese, the choreography for the wilis in Guillem's Giselle would have proved hardly taxing enough for a regional dance school production. Their technique was underdeveloped and they were, for the most part, incredibly weak, just watch their backs.

The Kirov have a phenomenal technique and remember Balanchine's choreography is fiendishly difficult, imagine the hash the La Scala dancers would have made of it. Balanchine is not in the lexicon of the Kirov and as such their "fish out of water" rendition cannot be seen as an indictment of a school and company which has upped the ante and level of technique required of companies and the corps the world over. I'm sure that the corps of the Kirov would have laughed at choreography in Guillem's production as risible and beneath them should they have been asked to perform it.

Moreover, I found Isobel's analysis detailed, insightful, intellectually challenging and fascinating not sweeping in the least.

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Kevin Ng

17-08-01, 04:47 AM (GMT)
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16. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #15
   I wasn't in London last week to see La Scala, so I can't comment on the standard of their corps de ballet. But I agree with Charles' observations on the Kirov's corps; I saw both their performances last month of the Balanchine programme. I thought their dancing glorious, and I am surprised that Anneliese found it so bad.

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17-08-01, 10:46 AM (GMT)
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18. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #15
   I made no comment on the Kirov corps' technique - I just said that they performed very very badly. They were ragged and unmusical and out of time, both in Serenade (easily the worst ballet performance I have ever seen at the ROH) and in Symphony in C. This is not what we have come to expect from the Kirov; it was a real shock to me and a great disappointment. I will probably never see La Scala ballet again so I will not be able to "watch their backs" - I'll take your word for it. My point was that the dancing was musical and uniform and together, and none of these qualities was displayed by the Russians when I saw them. I was not alone in this opinion, either! They were not dancing as a corps, and in any case their dancing in Serenade was at best perfunctory, at worst almost marking. Sorry to be a bore about this, but it really was a scrappy performance and not remotely worth the money!

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17-08-01, 10:48 AM (GMT)
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19. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #15
   OK, sweeping not perhaps the right word, but she chose to overlook quite a few things!

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19-08-01, 08:22 PM (GMT)
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20. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #19
   >OK, sweeping not perhaps the right
>word, but she chose to
>overlook quite a few things!

But my dear woman, in her excellent, personal criticism, Isobel never claimed to be constructing a total analysis, rather highlighted the areas where she felt the ballet failed for her. Do I perhaps notice a note of jealousy in your sweeping damning of Isobel's wonderful piece? Afterall I've noticed your postings in quite a few cases rubbishing Lynn Seymour as a dancer, Macmillan as a choreographer and of course the superlative Kirov and the Royal, as both falling short of the miraculous standards of La Scala.

Perhaps it would be best if you confine your criticisms to dance school, amateur and second-rate regional companies as it is obvious that that is where your talents to recognise the merits of a dance company and its dancers lie.

P.S. Perhaps if you had spent less time ogling Massimo Murro through your opera goggles you would have had time to focus on what a truly abysmal dancer the man is.

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19-08-01, 09:44 PM (GMT)
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21. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #20
   >P.S. Perhaps if you had spent
>less time ogling Massimo Murro
>through your opera goggles you
>would have had time to
>focus on what a truly
>abysmal dancer the man is.

Since I noticed Anneliese did not mention Murru - not Murro by the way - I feel your comment is out of line and just plain crass.

Anneliese was very precise in what she said and expressed her opinion of one Kirov perfomance without making personal attacks against other posters - perhaps something you could learn to do ... in addition to spelling names correctly.

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19-08-01, 11:16 PM (GMT)
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22. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #21
   Since I noticed Anneliese did not
>mention Murru - not Murro
>by the way - I
>feel your comment is out
>of line and just plain
I was referring to Anneliese's crit of La Scala from another forum on the same topic.

And I do believe anyone carrying such amateur, ill-formed, parochial and half-formed views, based upon such a paltry storehouse of knowlegde deserves to have their crassness exposed.

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19-08-01, 11:21 PM (GMT)
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23. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #22
>And I do believe anyone carrying
>such amateur, ill-formed, parochial and
>half-formed views, based upon such
>a paltry storehouse of knowlegde
>deserves to have their crassness

It was your crassness to which I was referring. And indeed you continue to expose it.

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20-08-01, 05:32 PM (GMT)
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25. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #21
   >>P.S. Perhaps if you had spent
>>less time ogling Massimo Murro
>>through your opera goggles you
>>would have had time to
>>focus on what a truly
>>abysmal dancer the man is.
>Since I noticed Anneliese did not
>mention Murru - not Murro
>by the way - I
>feel your comment is out
>of line and just plain
>Anneliese was very precise in what
>she said and expressed her
>opinion of one Kirov perfomance
>without making personal attacks against
>other posters - perhaps something
>you could learn to do
>... in addition to spelling
>names correctly.

No attacks? Calling a woman of obvious intellectual power and great sensitivity the author of "sweeping" criticism?

My dear girl, why don't you and Annaliese toddle off and leave the criticism of art to your betters. Have you seen Annaliese's teddybear site by the way? Truly someone whose opinion of art is to be trusted. There you can spell names to your hearts content, form your misguided views and oggle over hagiographic inanities to your heart's content.

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Bruce Madmin

20-08-01, 05:56 PM (GMT)
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26. "Point of Moderation"
In response to message #25
   >No attacks? Calling a woman of
>obvious intellectual power and great
>sensitivity the author of "sweeping"
>My dear girl, why don't you
>and Annaliese toddle off and
>leave the criticism of art
>to your betters. Have you
>seen Annaliese's teddybear site by
>the way? Truly someone whose
>opinion of art is to
>be trusted. There you can
>spell names to your hearts
>content, form your misguided views
>and oggle over hagiographic inanities
>to your heart's content.

My what arrogance! This site is all for all shades of opinion and while I don't expect us to all necessarily love what everybody else says, there is no need, no need at all, for stuff like this. Best to concentrate on the arguments. I'm personally very pleased when people intellectualise about ballet and dance and I'm also very pleased when people don't and instead talk as they straightly see... which is as often as not my own way.

What people decide to do away from dance is an issue for them and nothing for criticism. I collect clockwork tin toys and don't give a fig what anybody thinks about it. And I suspect if we knew some of the human foibles of you, be they exciting or dull, we might all have a giggle.

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20-08-01, 07:44 PM (GMT)
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27. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #25
>oggle over hagiographic inanities
>to your heart's content.


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Isobel Houghton

31-08-01, 05:15 PM (GMT)
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30. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #25

Just giving my sunburn a chance to calm down before the next assault and thought I'd surf ballet.co a bit. However, I really have to reply to Charles.

Charles, your attack and criticism of Anneliese is really offensive. Firstly, my analysis of Guillem's Giselle was a highly personal one, and if Anneliese found it lacking in certain respects she is totally right to say so. I do not need anyone to attack others on my behalf, if for Anneliese the Scala corps was superior to the Kirov's then i respect that. I certainly wouldn't insult her, your views represent everything I find distasteful about balletomania. There is no right or wrong view to hold, I am sure that much of the art and theatre that I enjoy watching would be tortuous to many. I however, respect this and would never enforce my tastes on another, nor criticise them for holding differing views.

Like Bruce Giselle is by far and away my favourite classical/romantic ballet, and the fact that I found Guillem's staging so lacking FOR ME was the reason I felt obliged to analyse why for myself. The posting was put to assert my views and see what others thought.

As for this intellectual labelling, well I'd never call myself so, I've always thought that if someone is so insecure as to proclaim themselves an "intellectual" then they probably aren't one. Art is personal and unique to each individual, and one must respect this. You must respect this. As much as I respect Anneliese's view of what she looks for and enjoys in art. We may not agree, but then wouldn't it be an unbearably boring world if we all did?

And please I certainly don't want anyone in my corner if they're going to insult others. And what on earth is this teddybear business? Am i missing something?

Sorry rant over, but Charles, whoever you are, please grow up and respect others a tad.

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20-08-01, 10:37 PM (GMT)
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28. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #20
   Oh dear, I seem to have upset someone!

We are all entitled to our opinions - I happen to like to see a well-drilled corps de ballet and I don't always bother to look for niceties of technique. Sometimes I do, but sometimes I like to sit back and let the general impression wash over me. Fair enough - I do have quite a lot on my plate in the day job!

Re. my particular likes and dislikes in the dance world: the feet of the great Lynn Seymour and the legs of the great Sylvie Guillem are not objects of envy or wonder to me; neither is the psyche of the great Kenneth Macmillan. Each of these titanic artists has many good points, but these are 3 aspects I think are best glossed over. None of these opinions (in fact, no opinion, full stop) is an indication that I don't know my fouette from my rotation. I like to wear my erudition lightly...

and btw I left my binoculars at home and was having to squint at the delectable (but nondescript artistically speaking) Murru.

I'm so sorry that I've upset you, and hope that you recover your sangfroid soon.

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21-08-01, 00:59 AM (GMT)
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29. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #28
   >But my dear woman,....

>My dear girl, why don't you and Annaliese toddle off and leave the criticism of art to your betters.....

How dare you Sir! (sic)

Charles or Chales, or whatever you choose to call yourself, I apologise if you are still learning the subtleties of the English language. If however English is your mother tongue, the use of such expressions are derogatory, sexist, insulting and a throwback to way way beyond the period when even Giselle was choreographed.

In addition, such a vehement attack on an individual's hobby is completely unnecessary and in very bad taste. I collect ballet memorabilia by the way, really sad in many people's opinion - but I don't give a kumquat!

Let's be nice eh!?

P.S. Dictionary & side order of Thesaurus anyone?

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Bruce Madmin

17-08-01, 08:22 AM (GMT)
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17. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #0
   A hell of a read again - I find I have to diary something like this! Loads of interesting and thoughtful points

Well its obviously a pretty convincing take on what you didn't like about it however I enjoyed the production though my eyes are not intellectual in their looking and I perhaps react more to its overall tone and intent as a piece of entertainment based on dance. Much of this is different eyes stuff and what we are attracted to. I won't attempt to cover all the points, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the feeling overall or that I consider them worthless.

I was in the stalls too and sat once at the back and once near the front. I didn't particularly see a lighting problem with act 2 being too bright and act 1 not bright enough. In fact I thought the act 2 lighting lovely. Likewise I didn't feel the music was overly fast and perhaps we should expect the odd 'uncomfortable' differences David Garforth having gone back to the original scores.

I don't see that Giselle has to be played one way - as the innocent who is not the sharpest tool in the box for example. Probably the best ever Giselle I saw was Revnna Tucker and she happened to play it this way. But having a bright and sassy Giselle is not a problem to me I think. Its actually based more in reality because any girl so much the centre of attention in a village is more bound to be like that than ever the innocent and humble. It rings truer for me.

Afraid I don't understand how a kiss between Giselle and Albrecht - something that all who are in love regularly do, totally undercuts the mad scene. Horrid to contemplate but I suspect that most lovers who commit suicide in real life will have actually kissed the one who has 'let them down'. To kiss when in love is natural! Giselle would want to kiss and so would Albrecht. So why not show it?

I don't miss the mime at all. I would hate to see all productions do away with it but most new people who go struggle with it - far more so then the absence of a cross in act 2 I fancy.

And I don't see that Bathilde's dress has to be stroked or the interplay between them is lost or misunderstood. I think what separates us is that I saw a story very plausibly being told and it making more sense because she demanded that they act their socks off. So I actually saw a Bathilde who was just as strong in the plot but this was not based on what I would see as a mechanistic approach. Similarly the pas de six I don't actually see as a necessary device in the plot - its just an excuse for a dance surely!

I didn't' miss the cross I'm afraid. What I loved about act 2 was that for the first time ever I truly felt in the middle of a wood that went on forever and ever - the stage was opened right up and the lighting really tailed off into gloom. And I loved the fact that the willies were in wedding dresses and of all nationalities (something that a few have struggled with I think). While Giselle on earth might be tied to a small village with a once year trip to the city, Wilies are not regional I fancy - its just not the way the supernatural works is it? There's not and English heaven or an Welsh hell is there(?) merely heaven and hell which all in the western world might go to.

There are some things I was not so keen on - absolutely agree with you that the absence of the first act 2 pdd - where he sees her and tries to embrace her, but her spirit has wafted on - is a big shame and I think a mistake. And while I like the idea of a Giselle with plated hair in act 1, I think the mad scene does come off better when the hair goes mad too.

On the La Scala as a company I think its very true that technically they are not as good as many other company's. However most average audiences won't notice this much. They will be saying things like, my what a terrific looking company (as in the woman will buckle at the knees for the boys etc), and my don't they act well compared to that Kirov lot. They are also really together as well - lovely. I have some sympathy with these comments - I think corps should be together more then we often see and la Scala certainly was - mainly because they've been doing nothing but Giselle every night for some time now. As entertainment this looks good.

Giselle is actually my favourite 19thc ballet. I like the Peter Wright productions and I was not very happy with the new David Bintley production for Birmingham or the Deane one for ENB. But I think what Guillem has done, in her first production, impresses me in her story telling gifts. Its probably production like this and those of AMP that make dance more relevant and understandable to fresh audiences.

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20-08-01, 06:43 AM (GMT)
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24. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #0
   Thank you Isobel!
i learned so much from your entry, it has had a great impact. i tend to take a view that is similar to the last poster (bruce?), but your words made me realize why this ballet has the power...qualities it has. i am beginning to appreciate the place that archetypes and symbolic expression have for the human spirit, and how it is a part of human experience that is disappearing, yet is vital for the full experience of human life on earth. best,

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Miranda Wilson

22-09-01, 10:26 PM (GMT)
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31. "RE: Guillem's Giselle"
In response to message #24
   I just have to say Isobel this was the finest piece of dance criticism I have read in a long while. Are you a dance insider?

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