Ballet Nebraska will kick off its fifth season this Saturday, October 4th, with the performance of Giselle. Erika Overturff, artistic director of Ballet Nebraska, called the show one the greatest ballets of the Romantic Era.
“It really is a whole package in telling the story not only through choreography but also the story itself and through the music,” she said. “Everything comes together and [creates] a sweeping, moving story that has love, jealousy, revenge, ghosts! There’s a lot to it.”
The story revolves around a young peasant girl named Giselle. When she finds out the love of her life is betrothed to another, she mentally collapses and dies of a broken heart. When she is brought back from the grave by the Wilis, a beautiful but deadly group of ghosts who haunt the forest, she is given the choice between revenge and forgiveness.
Overturff said that the interesting part of a ballet as old as Giselle is how the choreography lives on through generations of dancers.
“The classical choreography has been handed down,” she said. “Originally it just handed down from one dancer to the next. As that dancer retires or becomes a coach they are coaching the next generation of dancers. Even with this ballet, we have a couple of great coaches working with us that have both performed in the ballet as professionals. It was staged on them by another generation. That’s how it passes down.”
In spite of the technical and physical advances in ballet over the centuries, Giselle remains challenging for performers through the ages with its high demand of stamina and technicality. A wonderful example, Overturff said, is the demand placed on the ghostly group of Wilis.
“They’re featured in act two of the ballet,” she said. “They will dance and dance and dance without getting to leave the stage and then have to stand on the side, maybe for fifteen minutes in place without moving. Maybe after a few minutes, they get to take one step on to the other leg. That really takes a lot of endurance because your muscles go, go, go and then you stand still and they cramp up but you can’t show it. That’s definitely something we have to practice.”
Overturff said that Giselle is also a wonderful introduction to the artform of dance for those who have yet to experience a live show.
“Even if you don’t know anything about ballet...you don’t have to speak a certain language. You can go and watch and really be inspired by the beautiful movement, the music, and the story.”
For more information on Giselle, visit www.balletnebraska.org.
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