Light and dark, day and night, youth and maturity, a flirtation and redemption, naturalistic and ethereal: Giselle spins a conjuror’s trick all the wilier for its very familiarity, its everlasting allurement.
An autumnal village presented in Act I flips to reveal the ballet blanc of Act II: two halves of a whole. We know this, we anticipate this, we lap it up. Fermented in honey before interval, raising a flagon of mead to love, and even love’s folly, and unpinned madness, we heed the warnings spun to the villagers. The flipside to a light-hearted Peasant pas de deux is heartache and mourning. We are cognisant of the fact that when we return to our seats in the theatre, the scene will have changed. Light for dark. Day for night. Of the earth for beyond this realm. A village for the darkest forest floor of folkloric apparitions who demand you dance to your death. Raise your flagon of mead for raise your ghostly spirits, cloaked in a shawl spun by otherworldly spiders.
True to a magic trick, in the Australian Ballet’s 259th performance of Maina Gielgud’s production of Giselle: how is it that I had not really noticed Hilarion, a forester (gamekeeper) before? Giselle and Count Albrecht make a ballet classic, but Giselle and Hilarion could have made for a happier life. Against the backdrop of opposites, there appears a triangle. In magic, ballet, life, it appears. Unrequited love and anguish wears a beard in the form of Jarryd Madden, and his performance portends great things to come in Lucas Jervies’ Spartacus, to conclude the 2018 Melbourne season. On Tuesday night, Madden’s Hilarion is more than a narrative ploy to reveal Albrecht’s deception through identity as the finder-of-cloak-and-sword; he is more than a game-offering, unnoticed suitor in the woods; more than a warning that Myrtha and her glow of Willis mean business: you will dance to your death.
Recently landed: No rest for the wilis, Gracia's written response for Fjord Review
In light of Eastoe’s announcement to retire now forever netted to Giselle’s spectral maidens, I like to think I saw an extra flicker of considered clemency in Hendricks’ beguiling and truly imposing Queen, as Eastoe entreated her to spare Jackson. It was present in Jackson’s aching tenderness, a twice-laced awareness of something wonderful coming to a close. This recognition was poured into and made a part of the ghostly Wilis/corps as they were forced with backs turned to listen but not see Eastoe and Jackson’s pleading duet that felt as if it had always been, and hoped would always continue to be. It was present in former Principal Artist, and one of the great Giselle’s, Bolte’s heartfelt consoling of Giselle/Eastoe as she unwove her hair, in "a lovely full circle". And it was there as Juliet Burnett, as one of Giselle’s Friends, clasped her hands to her face in show of shared grief during the famous mad scene.
Such beguilement by moonlight! Keep the dawn at bay! Under a fine gossamer veil, in bid to savor the ‘ballet-fantastique’, it is there that I choose to stay.