Giselle: Beautiful Dance of Death

Boston Ballet’s production of Giselle, one of the most famous ballets every composed, contains more than enough emotion and virtuosity to satisfy any fan of the ballet. For those who prefer technically-difficult, plotless ballets, the demanding solos and variations in Giselle give the dance-lover a chance to “ooh” and “aah” at the dazzling skill of the dancers. And for those who prefer acting-filled story ballets, Giselle has enough drama to fulfill regular watchers of soap operas.

The basic storyline of Giselle follows a peasant girl, Giselle, who is cruelly betrayed. She discovers that her poor lover is not who he appears and is already engaged to another woman. Upon learning the truth, Giselle goes mad with grief and dies after a fit of frenetic dancing.

If this weren’t tragic enough, Giselle’s spirit then enters a fantastic world of limbo where she must dance every night with other maidens who have experienced the same heartache. If any man crosses their path, these women, the Wilis, revenge themselves by forcing him to dance until he dies.

Of course, Giselle’s lover, Count Albrecht, skillfully played by Gaël Lambiotte, comes to visit her grave, repentant of his deceitful behavior. He stumbles into the fatal rituals of the Wilis, doomed to die unless the woman he wronged intervenes or he dances non-stop until dawn breaks.

With such a melodramatic piece, the principals face the potential of delivering overwrought performances. To their credit, though, the dancers remain steadfastly earnest. The result is powerful. Audiences see the real pain of Giselle and the deep regret of Count Albrecht.


Giselle’s descent into insanity, danced to a haunting effect by principle dancer Larissa Ponomarenko, is wonderfully powerful. When she finally collapses in the arms of her mother, the audience almost heaves a sigh of relief that Giselle has found some support.

The production’s marriage of acting and dancing is perfectly balanced. After Giselle has been formally converted into a Wili, she encounters Count Albrecht at her grave and the two dance a pas de deux of regret and longing on Count Albrecht’s part and of cautious forgiveness on Giselle’s part. The lifts of the pas de deux are breathtaking in their fluidity and perfect line. Ponomarenko’s extensions during promenade defy gravity.

Since the ballet involves dance integrally in its plot, many scenes face the difficulty of displaying dancing for the sake of dancing—the scenes impress nonetheless.

In the first act, a peasant couple entertain local nobility. The wife, portrayed by Sarah Lamb, must perform a series of difficult, technical maneuvers: She hops across the stage en pointe while performing a ronde de jambe. Such flawless, joyful execution is simply awe-inspiring.

Boston Ballet’s Giselle is a magical ballet filled with challenging, yet beautiful choreography, which is skillfully danced in gorgeous costumes in front of an impressively designed set. It is a fine production of one of ballet’s most emotional and accessible staples.



Produced by Boston Ballet

Music by Adolphe Adarn

Choreography by Jean Coralli,

Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa

Staged by Maina Gielgud

The Wang Theater

Feb. 14–24