Giselle is a story of love and loss, words left unspoken and the pain of regret. It's a ballet tragedy but a beautifully poignant representation of human emotion.

The Australian Ballet's Giselle is a sweet character, like a delicate flower in bloom, tentatively exploring the attention of her new found love interest Albrecht. Their cheeky exchanges, including blowing kisses and Giselle dipping under Albrecht's arm to dodge his advances, make for a playful start to the work. The villager's medieval costumes have an autumn feel, in burnt orange, mustard and dusty brown colours. The female dancer's romantic dresses have a chiffon-like top layer, fluttering gracefully as they jump. Karen Nanasca is a vision, gliding on stage in her white, regal costuming as the daughter of the Duke of Courland. Dana Stephensen perfectly captures the innocence and shyness of Giselle during the courting section of the work, her extensions and stage presence exuding poise and grace, a joy to watch.

© Jeff Busby
© Jeff Busby
The first act builds to a crescendo of dramatic violins as Giselle's heart is crushed by a deceiving Albrecht, after he plants a kiss on the Duke's daughter. The tone of the piece takes a sombre turn, as a disheveled Giselle struggles to deal with her anger and grief. The audience appreciates a brief comical moment as Giselle attempts to dance but carelessly throws her limbs about in sadness. The audience sympathises with the broken Giselle, whose vulnerability we instinctively took under our wing before she was betrayed.

The second act is like an entirely different ballet, set at a gravesite. The eerie lighting illuminates a sole ghost-like dancer in white, gliding across the stage on pointe, as if she's levitating. The ethereal beauty continues, with a sequence in unison featuring dancers in flowing white skirts, draped with veils. Like cobwebs swaying in the breeze, the costumes breathe new life into the work. There's a few 'ahh' moments, as the ghost of Giselle is lifted in the air in pas de deux, softly swung to the side and gently placed down on pointe with gratifying accuracy. The arabesques are a highlight, slow descends to the floor mesmerising to watch, while a classical can-can inspired line of dancers interweave across the stage, legs extended behind them in perfect parallels. The whole work is graceful albeit morbid, a canon effect in a diagonal line showcasing sweeping balletic movement at its best. Ty King-Wall exhibits exceptional technique, showing remarkable calf strength, beating feet together mid-air in more than a dozen batterie jumps, promoting the audience to erupt in applause.

Adolphe Adam's composition of dark violins coupled with intermittent harp sounds creates a mournful tone that never picks itself back up. Not a fault of the production, but the nature of the romantic ballet tragedy, which debuted 175 years ago. The notion that one can die of a broken heart seems a greater metaphor for the fragility of human relationships and the roller coaster of unrequited love. The ballet also shows that love can also prevail among different social classes and even after death. It's a concept that has stood the test of time and is captured gently and beautifully by the graduate-level students of The Australian Ballet School alongside esteemed professionals.

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