March 20, 2024

Watching a Ballet – Act I – Giselle

About the Author: Suzanne Wagner
By Published On: March 20, 2024Categories: Ballet, Blog Daily

Watching a Ballet – Act I – Giselle

Going to a ballet is an event. It is the promise to be transported into another world, often another time, and to become completely emersed in a story with one’s body, heart, and soul.
Ballet is a feast for the senses. The music takes hold of your heart and fills in the gaps where words fail. The bodies of the dancers become the expressions of a beautiful melody even when the feelings of the story show that it is humanity that messes things up.
Music is the language of the souls yearning for its highest self to be explored. Music becomes the moral baseline for all ballets. It allows the imagination to take flight with the soul’s yearning. Ballet becomes the wings that attempt to transport an audience beyond their day, their worries, their problems, and allow the hope of another possibility to exist.
I think I always knew that words alone were not enough. Words could be clumsy, but music allows emotions to have purpose, meaning, and beauty.
Ballet is the embodiment of the feelings and impulses within the music. Ballet adds the fragility of the human condition into the purity of these sounds, notes, and sequences in the music. Ballet adds substance and a deeply personal quality to music. Ballet allows the audience to experience that they too are magic. Ballet shows that magic can exist in unique moments in a theater.
The heart and soul of all the dancers contribute to that etheric quality of human expression during a performance.
But it is the stars of the ballet world, that have the capacity to take us beyond our own known limitations of expression.
In the worlds of art and especially ballet, truths become simple because all artists know that with the truth, all energies and factors move into harmony with one another.
In the refined light of a ballet, what is false becomes crystal clear. Unlike in the real world. Just as a wrong note can cause our souls to cringe, those without the ability to flow with the powerful currents of a performance, inhibit the greatest gifts of transmission that are possible.
I go to watch a ballet to remember that in watching a performance I want to witness the masterpieces of humanity on that stage.
Tonight was going to be one of those nights. There was a feeling in the air. There is a type of artistic tension weaving its way into the theater with each person arriving. There are the sounds of people finding their seats and the squeals of young people at the theater for the first time. There is anticipation and excitement everywhere. Everyone knows that they are in a special moment and in a very special place.
We are all here to witness greatness. Rudolf Nureyev and Eva Evdokimova are the epitome of the human perfection that each of us wants to believe is inside us. Inside we know the innocent sweetness that Evdokimova embodies so effortlessly. Inside we feel the tempestuous passion of Nureyev and how in moments our own arrogance can cause us suffering. These two dancers are the perfect representatives of the characters, Albrecht and Giselle.
We believe that if we can be a witness to their souls precarious balance between bodily control and soul expression that something inside of us will also find a way to fly free.
Tonight, we are to witness the Romantic Ballet, Giselle, a two-act ballet placed in a small village along the Rhine River. It is a story with German roots that everyone here understands.
We are celebrating the renewal of a country that lost so very much in WWI and WWII. This theater has become one of the greatest theaters in the Western European world. It is a testament to the commitment of the German people to hold tight to their art, their culture, their opera, and their ballet.
The bell sounds and the lights dim slightly, indicating that the show will begin shortly and to get to your seats. Once the lights completely go down, the conductor comes out in the center of a spotlight, and the audience politely applauds as he bows and calls the musicians to prepare to begin.
The lights change in the orchestra pit and the swelling of music transports us out of our life and into another world, another time, and towards the eternal story of love, loss, and the power of forgiveness that can lead all of us to redemption.
The curtain opens and we are in a peasant village where the people pick grapes and make wine for their lordship of the area. We see Albrecht a count, come into the village while the peasants are in the fields picking grapes, he is with his courtier, and he tells his man that he wants to be in disguise and be one of the peasants. He tells his courtier to hide his sword and cape in a building so no one will know that he is actually a count.
There is a beautiful young girl in the village that loves to dance but she has a weak heart, and her mother is very protective of her overdoing anything. But her first love is to dance, and she comes out of the door, filled with youthful exuberance and joy. She cannot help but dance.
Albrecht is enchanted with her and interrupts her dance. The shy Giselle is embarrassed and tries to run back into the house. But Albrecht entices her to stay and dance with him. He is not someone she knows and at first is unconvinced of his intentions.
She is right to be concerned because Albrecht is betrothed to another and yet he convinces this young, innocent girl that he is being sincere and so she decides to play a game with a daisy where she picks a flower petal for each thought, “he loves me, he loves me not.” As she plays out the game of petals, the flower reveals the truth that he does not love her. Devasted, she turns away but he plucks one petal off to make the game fall in his favor, then he shows her that she miscounted.
Joyfully she believes him, and she continues to fall in love with Albrecht. In a moment of spontaneous youthful sincerity, he pledges his eternal love and she believes him fully.
However, there is another in the village that is in love with Giselle, another peasant boy named Hilarion. He has discovered Albrecht’s secret and tries to prove that to the entire village. His convincing is not going well until a hunting party from the castle arrives and with it … Albrecht’s betrothed, Bathilde.
The two young women bond not realizing that they are in love with the same person. Bathilde is enchanted with Giselle and gives her a necklace for Giselle as a wedding present.
Hilarion cannot take it anymore and reveals that Albrecht is really a count and Bathilde reveals to Giselle that Albrecht is engaged to her.
Giselle is devasted and it breaks her heart. She goes mad and in a dancing frenzy tragically collapses and dies in Albrecht’s arms.
Albrecht realizes what a horrible thing he has done and devasted with remorse and guilt, but is pulled away from the village by his courtier as the curtain comes down. Thus, ending Act I.
This act is filled with drama, pathos, the feelings of love lost, hopes dashed, and the insensitivity of young men to the fragility of a women’s heart.
Nureyev is the epitome of a callous young count out to get his jollies at the expense of the sincere emotions of a young village girl. He character is the perfect counterpoint to his real self because he was a young farming peasant boy in real life that dreamed of being a prince. But Nureyev has a face that can express complex emotions dramatically and with deep authentic sincerity. His dancing is flirtatious and playful and like a young man that has not a care in the world other than for getting his own way. Yet, at the end of Act I, we realize that there is much more to Albrecht and that this man has learned a terrible lesson, and the guilt is going to eat him alive.
Evdokimova is (in reality) so very sweet, sincere, kind, and plays beautifully to Nureyev’s style and personality.

There is a joyful connection between them that is experienced as trust and a genuine like for each other. He demands brilliance and she casually offers it at every turn. She demands depth and Rudi is bursting at the seams with Russian intensity and drama. She is the light to his dark. He will become the salvation to her love. The chemistry between them is honest, true, and magical to witness.
There is a power that begins to weave its web around our hearts and souls. We are willingly caught up in their story that is the embodiment of the human condition that strives to become more than we are.
As the curtain comes down, the applause is explosive after the emotional intensity of Evdokimova’s “mad scene”.
The audience goes to intermission all buzzing with excitement at this very special moment that we are all experiencing. Being in the audience is very special. Being on the stage with them even more so.
Tonight, I am both the spectator backstage watching the magic being made and I will become shortly a part of that magic.
Act II is next and this is where I will become a part of this moment in history. I will get to be on the stage with the greatest in the ballet world. While they know how important this moment is for me, they also know that we are all warriors on this stage together tonight. We each have a job to do and we have been trained for this moment. Now it will be up to us to let go of the mind and allow the body to feel into the flow. If we are in harmony with each other, the moment, and the music we might get to create a memory that will inspire and become unforgettable.
~Suzanne Wagner~

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