This classic was first performed in Paris in 1841 and is one of the more traditional ballets, truly capturing the headily romantic drama and beauty of the form. The choreography has changed little over the decades and we’re treated to a fabulous array of set pieces. The Vienna Festival Ballet’s touring production of Giselle features a pared back set to allow maximum stage space for the breath-taking scope and range of dances.

If you’re not familiar with ballet, you’ll need to park your cynicism at home to enjoy it as the story is relayed through mimes that may appear contrived. You’ll also be hard pushed to follow the story fully if you haven’t already read a synopsis of it before watching the show. However, I don’t think either of these points detract from the feast for your eyes and ears on offer here.

Rachel Victoria Hernon is captivating as Giselle and utterly convincing as she dances energetically through the tragic story of this young ingenue. She is full of innocence and eager youth when she falls in love then evokes the fragile intensity of despair when she discovers she has been betrayed as Albrecht is betrothed to another. She falls dead on the stage before the curtain falls at the end of the first act, priming us for the change in mood to come. We are transported from the vibrant, fun filled exuberance of the village in Act 1 to the mysterious world of the deadly woods in Act 2.

Dean Rushton’s tall athletic Albrecht makes such a striking visual contrast with the petite Giselle and yet the pair move in synchronised unison through a demanding sequence of dances. The group dances are also performed with vigour although the timing isn’t consistently perfect. This reminds us how demanding this ballet is and makes us more admiring when it works well.

Esperanza Carmona and Nicola White’s gorgeous costumes are almost characters in their own right. The pretty peasant dresses swirl colourfully as the ballerinas cavort through the harvest festival celebrations. In deliberately stark contrast, the ghostly white wedding dresses of the vengeful Wilis are hauntingly elegant. Their tulle skirts float like mysterious clouds in the dark forest gloom.

The music by Adolphe Adam is suitably melodramatic for this folkloric tale where the enduring power of love overcomes the supernatural forces of death. We are buoyed by this final thought at the end of this lovely ballet.

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