Giselle Reviews

The Stage

Giselle review at Dance Base, Edinburgh – ‘full-blooded re-imagining staged with zeal’

Ballet Ireland’s Giselle. Photo: Maria Falconer 

★★★★ 4 Stars

by Anna Winter Aug 7, 2018

Choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela recasts Giselle as a modern horror, complete with a mortuary scene, in this ambitious and atmospheric full-length ballet (the first ever staged at Dance Base). There’s no Rhineland prettiness here. The setting is anonymous and urban – Maree Kearns’ adroit design features a variety of concrete blocks, scrawled with amorous graffiti, against which a fatal romantic deception plays out.

Using snatches of the original score and pared-back orchestrations, Ondiviela brings a dose of CSI realism to the Romantic framework. Headstrong Giselle (the excellent Ana Enriquez Gonzalez) ends up on a gurney, and there’s a police procedural scene in which the coppers build their theories in physical phrases, arrowing the air as if snatching at leads, or racked with inquisitive palpitations.

Despite the practical restrictions of the studio space and a bit of shaky partnering, the second act is a belter, performed with real brio by the company. The concrete blocks now form a candlelit crypt, out of which emerge a mixed-gender cabal of vengeful spirits. Don’t expect ethereality. There’s some wonderful zombie port de bras – outflung and ungainly – that emits a chilly ectoplasmic energy around grieving Albrecht (Mario Gaglione). A full-blooded reimagining staged with zeal – bravo Ballet Ireland.

Edinburgh Guide

Giselle, Dance Base, Review

By Imogen Rowe– Posted on 05 August 2018

★★★★ 4 Stars

Ballet Ireland present a modern retelling of the classical ballet Giselle in the first ever full-length ballet to be seen at the Edinburgh Fringe.

When Giselle (Ryoko Yagyu) falls in love with an engaged man, he lover Albrecht (Rodolfo Saraiva) is torn between his passion and the reality of his duty as a fiancé. Once the truth of his engagement is revealed, Giselle is bereft, and dies of a broken heart – or as in this retelling, jealousy rears its ugly head and actual murder is on the cards. Originally the lovers who are kept apart by class are brought up to the 21st century by ethnical casting that presents the idea that the lovers are each from a different side of the tracks – the visceral staging with its concrete walls and graffiti supports this idea of a modern kind of forbidden romance, which of course ends in disaster. Albrecht’s fiancé Bathilde (Ana Enriquez-Gonzalez) takes an active role in Giselle’s demise, and an entire section set in the police station is visually superb and a refreshing reminder of what a wonderful medium ballet is.

The second half, much more sombre, gothic and dreamlike, tries to marry the story of the ballet with this modern adaptation, and only partially succeeds. There is too large a gap between the hotpant-wearing teens hanging out on the streets of Act I and the vampirish, phantom funeral and subsequent rising of the Wilis of Act II for it to be seamless. The attempted seduction and capture of Albrecht by the supernatural Wilis goes on a wee bit past its best.

Having said that, the look of it is beautiful, and Act I succeeds in bringing the classic story into the present. The pas de deux (or is it a solo?) between Albrecht and Giselle’s dead body is fantastic storytelling and visually very moving. Although if you want to be moved, Seu Kim’s portrayal of Hilarion steals the show as Giselle’s tortured lover, excluded from her affections but promising ‘Where she goes, he follows.’

There is a higher mime-to-dance ratio in Act I than you may expect, and it seems that the ideas there are more solid than the execution; but as the ballet progresses it becomes more comfortable in what it is doing, and there are some really stand out moments that will be enjoyed by audiences, I am sure, for a long time.

Herald Scotland

9th August 2018

Mary Brennan | Dance critic | Giselle

★★★★ 4 Stars


When it comes to the great 19th century Romantic ballets, the “hands off – it’s sacrosanct” mindset still governs many a production. Ludovic Ondiviela, however, has decided that Ballet Ireland shouldn’t celebrate its 20th anniversary with a museum piece, so he’s given them a small-scale Giselle that re-frames the narrative with a radical modern twist. Two-timing Albrecht (Mario Gaglione) still occasions Giselle’s death – but now it leads to a murder investigation worthy of a TV cop series. The vengeful Wilis are now male and female wraiths, lurking in the creepy catacombs where Giselle will – as in the original – dance defiantly to protect the man who betrayed her. Purists might wince, but Ondiviela’s story-telling choreography offers attractive classical technique that the 12 strong company deliver with expressive flair – Ana Enriquez-Gonzalez (as Giselle) has spirited strength and a lovely line, easily appreciated at close quarters in Dance Base’s studio space.

Broadway Baby

By Stephanie Green | 6th Aug 2018 | ★★★★ 4 Stars

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.

By Stephanie Green@levi

The Arts Review

A 21st century ‘Giselle’

One of the greatest ballets of all time, “Giselle,” first performed in 1841, carries with it the weight of tradition, with the legendary Marius Petipa’s choreography still informing many of today’s productions. Yet, over the years, this most traditional of ballets has seen both its music and choreography undergo both subtle and significant changes. Ballet Ireland, in collaboration with choreographer, Ludovic Ondiviela, have decided it’s time for yet another change, and have taken it upon themselves to not so much revive, as reimagine “Giselle” for the 21st century. The changes certainly aren’t subtle, with libretto, choreography and music being significantly altered. In a production that honours tradition without ever being restrained by it, Ballet Ireland’s “Giselle” embraces the contemporary and is all the better for doing so. Brave and breathtakingly beautiful at times, Ballet Ireland’s “Giselle” borders on the sublime.

Under Ondiviela’s direction, “Giselle’s” original libretto undergoes some significant alterations. The “poor girl done wrong by a rich boy” narrative, which dominates the original first act, is essentially intact, but now with an added twist or two. Giselle, loved by Hilarion, but in love with Albrecht, dies when Albrecht chooses his betrothed, Bathilde, over her. Yet this original first act is reduced to a matter of mere minutes in this revised production. Instead, following Giselle’s death very early on, the central action of Act One now revolves around a new twist as “Giselle” becomes a modern whodunnit, replete with police, investigations and interrogations, with Giselle’s death often revisited in flashback. One direct downside of this is it risks Giselle becoming little more than a first act narrative device, yet a simultaneous plus is its foregrounding and exploring of other characters. The second act sees a return to tradition as the ghostly Giselle, surrounded by the vengeful Wilis spirits, tries to protect Albrecht from their punishing hatred. A visual sensibility marries both the contemporary with the traditional in a very 21st century context, informed by a healthy amount of Neo-Gothic

Throughout, Ondiviela’s often exquisite choreography shifts focus from situation to substance, with narrative action becoming secondary to the emotions and experiences directly encountered by “Giselle’s” characters. Structurally, some choices can be a little confusing, or challenging, such as the extensive reduction of Giselle’s presence in Act One, and the opening to Act Two, whose sole purpose seems to be to foreshadow, unnecessarily, what is to come. Yet, when it all comes together, Ondiviela’s choreography is utterly sublime. The wonderfully woven interplay during the dance of the Wilis, for example, is breathtakingly brilliant. Here, group sequences craft a pulsating, undulating motion, part wave, part heartbeat, an irresistible undertow designed to pull Albrecht to his doom. All of which is exquisitely executed, with traditional en pointe sequences seeming to find a new, expressive freedom.

Tradition and innovation also inform an exquisite musical score, in which Adolphe Adams’ original music is married to an extraordinary sound design and composition by Tom Lane and Rob Moloney. Crafting something steeped in tradition while sounding fresh and contemporary, Lane and Moloney set the bar impossibly high with a score both instantly recognisable and utterly new. From its radio tuned links to the past, to its almost Max Richter like use of spoken word and street sounds, Lane and Moloney’s score is practically flawless. Maree Kearns’ simple, yet powerful design, informed by a wonderful lighting design by Paul Keogan, is deeply evocative, highlighting the emotional and imaginative landscape “Giselle” inhabits.

If opening night lead, Ryoko Yagyu as Giselle, seemed less comfortable with the mimed opening sequence, playing it a little too large at times, that might have to do with the fact that dancing is more her natural medium, at which she is outstanding. An opening night malfunction also showed her as a consummate professional who took a moment that might have gone astray and worked it into the fabric of “Giselle” so brilliantly, it should be retained as one of those happy accidents that result in something unexpected that enriches and informs the performance. Rodolfo Saraiva’s technically excellent Albrecht, was also strong, but a Patrick Swayze hair and costume design left a little to be desired, compromising visually an otherwise strong performance. Ana Enriquez-Gonzalez as Bathilde was a revelation, as was Mark Samaras as Hilarion, with both technically brilliant and utterly expressive, whether inhabiting the physical first act or the ghostly second. Throughout, dancers Nahia Gil, Emma Hancox, Arianna Marchiori, Sayako Tomiyoshi, Jasper Arran, Cian Hughes, Matthew Petty and Patrick Ryan were also amazingly strong. If footwork and synchronisation were a tad untidy on the rare ocassion, that might well have had more to do with opening night nerves, not helped by an almost twenty-minute delay before starting. Respectfully, patrons and late arrivals need to be mindful that opening nights are about the dancers, not about them.

If you care to debate the point, Ballet Ireland’s “Giselle,” with its mix of innovation and tradition, might play well with some, and not so well with others. If it risks alienating both the traditionalists and those seeking innovation by going too far, or not far enough, it also risks delighting them by breaking fresh ground. For those unconcerned with such things, preferring to engage with dance rather than debate, Ballet Ireland’s “Giselle” is an absolute joy. This is “Giselle” made accessible for “The Walking Dead” generation, and under Ondiviela’s exquisite choreography, it is modern, moving, magical and memorable. And most certainly not to be missed.

Chris O’Rouke, The Arts Review, 23 April 2017


Irish Independent

Irish Independent

Ballet Ireland gives Giselle a makeover in this impressive new version from choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela, danced by a first rate company of international talent.

The motifs of the movement are familiar in the classical sense: plenty of lifts, arabesques, pointe work, but all given a faintly modern tinge. The gracefulness is constantly undercut and tempered with jagged movement and discomfiting recoils. It feels simultaneously classical and new.

The music also has been rearranged and enhanced with soundscape by Tom Lane and Robert Moloney; it has the comforting melodiousness of Adolphe Adams’ original 19th Century score, but the familiarity is drenched in freshness.

Both choreography and concept prioritise narrative, with plenty of mime and some shadow work. The story has been significantly altered to add drama. A poetic voiceover provides clarity as well as texture to a police interrogation scene. A highlight (one of many) is the dance between Albrecht and the corpse of Giselle, who is brought in on a gurney.

Act 2 moves to the graveyard, and the appearance of the ghostly Wilis. Traditionally an all female dance, this is reimagined with a mixed male and female company, so the ballet has its gender-revenge theme removed. The group choreography is highly effective, containing staggered formations, creating a disconcerting sense of off rhyme. Maree Kearns’s delightful design and costumes deliver tremendous atmosphere.

This is a hugely enjoyable version that will satisfy traditionalists as well as innovators. Like a successful refurbishment of a classical building, you can admire the enhancements, but it’s clear the original structure is holding the whole thing up. The ending is pure romance.

Kate Hayes, Irish Independent, 24 April 2017