Artistic's POV: Giselle with Ballet Mistress Tamara Hoffmann

Giselle is the very first ballet I danced with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. I was still a student in the pre-professional division, and I was coached endlessly on the corps work. As my final performance with the pre-professional division group, I danced the lead. I had more coaching on this role and ballet than many others I danced in my career. Giselle was also one of the ballets we performed most often throughout my years with Royal Winnipeg. I hope this experience and knowledge will allow me to pass on the style and quality behind the steps.

The story of Giselle has so many human elements in it, similar to the way Shakespeare speaks to the human condition. Giselle shows the beauty of innocence and the value of honesty. There’s love in its many forms, as well as heartbreak, loss and forgiveness. There’s class distinctions and a worried and somewhat overprotective Mom.

The Romantic style of ballet is soft, simple and expressive without exaggeration. Yet the softness doesn’t mean weakness; our Giselle, Virginia Ramey, has that softness but she’s also determined and driven. To be “romantic” in Giselle is to see what you are and wish for something entirely different. It’s a timeless, relatable story.

You always hear that Giselle is a technically demanding ballet, and Act II is one of the most challenging for female dancers–specifically in the corps as a Willi. It’s an amazing feeling to dance in unison and to feel so together, moving with strength and specificity. You have to be so aware of everyone and stick together no matter what happens. It’s a very important learning experience for a dancer, and it can only make you better and stronger. The dancers learn to transfer from step to step exactly the same way each time, so the woman behind you or next to you knows what you are going to do. They learn the power of accents and timing within a note, as well as eye focus and head placement. It’s the closest feeling, I imagine, to what it may be like to play in an orchestra; it’s not about the individual dancers. The dancers have to become one.

In the role of Giselle, you have so much to portray artistically. You have to show innocence and some vulnerability but also ease of movement that would be evident in a young peasant girl who loves to dance. Then, in Act II, it’s all heartbreak and extreme love in every inch of your body. It is so much more about what your body is saying as a dancer rather than your face. You have to make the journey from heartbreak to madness in Act I when you find out Albrecht is betrothed to someone else to saving his life in Act II. Forgiving him and loving him unconditionally; sensing his hurt and remorse you save him from the wilis power, saving his life.

Giselle is such a beautiful ballet; it’s stood the test of time for many reasons and is a beautiful classic everyone can relate to.