You're portraying a spirit. So you have to look like you're floating on air. And the control that is involved in the second act is extremely difficult. It's very slow movements but you have to make it look like it's completely seamless.
—Vanessa Lawson, principal dancer
The image of Giselle floating ethereally across the stage in a ghostly white tutu is a classic. And when she is joined by her fellow spirits, rising from the grave, it will absolutely give you "the Wilis." In fact, it is here that the expression "that gives me the willies" originated, because the ghostly spirits are called the Wilis.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is bringing back Giselle after ten years. And principle dancer Vanessa Lawson is reprising the title role. This was the ballet that launched her career. It is one of the most gruelling roles in the whole repertoire, involving endurance, poise and virtuosity.
"You're portraying a spirit," says Lawson. " So you have to look like you're floating on air. And the control that is involved in the second act is extremely difficult. It's very slow movements but you have to make it look like it's completely seamless."
Vanessa Lawson as Giselle (David Cooper)
This is the first ballet in history where dancers were required to go en pointe
. The fact that Lawson is just back after a nine-month injury makes her performance even more remarkable. Despite the challenges, the role remains one of her favourites.
Lawson plays opposite Jared Matthews from the American Ballet Theatre
. He plays the role of the nobleman Albrecht. Giselle, a young peasant girl, falls in love with him. After he betrays her, she is heartbroken, becomes mad and kills herself.
The second act takes place around her grave, where she is joined by the Wilis, other women who were jilted before their wedding and died. Together they seek their revenge by dancing their male victims to their death.
Desmond Kelly, the eminent English director, staged this new production. Sets and costumes are also newly refurbished.
March 7th's performance is called Opening White Out and audience members are encouraged to dress in white - a nod to the Jets tradition of attending a game wearing white. But is is actually a French tradition. In Paris, the audience for a ballet blanc
dress in white for opening night.Giselle
runs at Centennial Concert Hall until March 11th.