Giselle review: streets fights and cryptic connections in a frantic production

Ludovic Ondiviela’s hip interpretation never dips below the surface of this classic

Project Arts Centre, Dublin


Re-telling classics has become big business in the ballet world and is a valid way to engage new audiences. The idea works best when some link remains to the strength of the original or the new version completely turns the original on its head. Ballet Ireland's new production of Giselle, caught somewhere in choreographic limbo, does neither.

Despite a dynamic creative team and strong dancers, this new rendition never fully unites its steps with the story it purports to tell. The movement often seems to exist purely for its own sake and with little link to the overall concept, no matter how loosely tethered or not to the original Giselle the new concept might be.

In the original Giselle, the title character's development and the corps de ballet's unity in Act II kept ballerinas striving to dance it. Yet here choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela sets aside these precedents in favour of a hipper, more urban tale. This ballet keeps all of its action on the surface, rather than demanding much depth from the dancers.

Ryoko Yagyu in the lead displays versatility and stamina, but as soon as she dies in what appears to be a street fight, the dramatic arc becomes more puzzling. Despite unnecessary and pedantic spoken text in part of the soundscore, she and Rodolfo Saraiva as Albrecht barely have time to convince us of their devotion before we are led to a morgue: a difficult scene to make appealing. Prior to this, the action in a police station had introduced us to the rest of the cast, including a guilty Bathilde whose silhouette behind a blacklit screen remains one of the strongest images of the evening.

Ultimately, Ondiviela’s interpretation of the graveyard scene involves a mass of ghostly limbs jabbing and intersecting through a tangle of steps. With such incessant movement on a stage already full of crypts, Paul Keogan’s intricate, patterned lighting provides calming relief.

Finally Giselle and Albrecht dance a simple, touching duet as a tangerine coloured sky emerges, signalling the night is over. When the sunrise sends the spirits away at the end of Giselle, there is quite often a melancholic sense of sadness that lingers for Giselle and the lover who betrayed her. In this production, with so much movement and little time to reflect on the ballet's action and overall meaning, the sunrise offers a welcome relief.

Until April 29 then tours nationally until May 27