CriticalDance Forum

Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"
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Author:  joannelee198 [ Thu Jun 19, 2003 2:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"

Malcolm, the next time you want to pen a so-called "review", please do your homework.


Wilis are the spirits of women who die of a broken heart. Malevolent spirits who condemn men to dance to their death when they stray into the path of the wilis.

When Myrtle summons Giselle from her grave, and removes her veil, it's a sprig of rosemary that she brandishes. The message: "Remember. Remember what men have done to you, and kill them."

So please, it's bad enough that you have the audacity to write a review when you've never watched Giselle, but it's even more outrageous that you're presumptious enough to pass judgement on the artistry of Marius Petipa, who was the original choreographer who incorporated the siginificance of the rosemary.

A dance critic should criticise the dancing and the production, not the original dance genius itself.

If you're base enough to insult the dancers, calling them rubbery-faced or whatever, then that's an indictment on your own sense of propriety.

But please don't outrage balletomanes the world over by insulting on of the greatest choreographers who ever lived.

Cauliflowers, herb and vegetable theme indeed.

Author:  joannelee198 [ Thu Jun 19, 2003 5:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"

Whoops. That be Myrtha. And Perrot. But definitely rosemary.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Jun 19, 2003 7:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"

Hi Joanne Lee and welcome to CriticalDance. It's always good to have new posters from the Pacific area. Sorry you didn't like Malcolm's post, but you raise a number of points which are worth commenting on.

WE are very keen that readers post their comments and that includes those who are seeing a work for the first time. For instance, this week I saw some Spanish folk dances for the first time as part of a performance at Sadler's Wells, but felt happy to write about what I saw.

I'm afraid I disagree regarding whether a poster can comment on the choreographer of a work such as "Giselle". Actually "Giselle" is one of my favourites from the 19th C. rep, but, as with the work of current choreographers, an audience member is entitled to write what he thinks, within the bounds of our courtesy rule, and readers will form their own judgement. On "rubbery-faced", I think Malcolm was describing the ability of the performer to portray a wide range of expressions, rather than as a criticism or insult.

AS you probably saw, this review was from 15 months ago and I'm sure if Malcolm saw "Giselle" again, his description would be different. I thought he was honest to "admit" that this was his first viewing rather than trying to bluff his way through.

AS you may have seen further down the discussion we did discuss the rosemary point. I suspect that your correction is right that this motif was in Perrot's original production, but I don't consider myself sufficiently authoritive on the subject to know which elements come from that source and which were introduced by Petipa in his re-working later in the second half of the 19th C. For instance, I understand that the original production was about twice the length of the version we see now.

I hope you continue to enjoy CriticalDance and we all look forward to your own comments on the performances that you see.

Author:  BabsLights [ Thu Jun 19, 2003 1:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"

I never knew it was rosemary....why don't they write that stuff in programs?!?

Very interesting.

I wonder if the small round thing might be a ring? The ring that the fiancee gives her that she rips from her neck when she's dying?

Author:  joannelee198 [ Fri Jun 20, 2003 2:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"

Bathilde gives her a chain or necklace of sorts, just coz Giselle admired it, prior to knowing that she was Albrecht's fiancee. She rips it from her neck later in denial of Albrecht;s princehood and finding out about his engagement to Bathilde.

For anyone who wants to know all the subtleties in Giselle, watch Dancers, with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leslie Browne, Alessandra Ferri, and a young Julie Kent. Circa 1987 by Herbert Ross.

You'll see that every single gesture that the dancers flourish on stage has a significance and meaning to it. Even the rabbits that hang by the cottage.

Apologies to Malcolm if I came across strong in my initial post, but I really was outraged at the cauliflower and linzhi exchanges. I'm not humourless, trust me, but somehow I didn't find his attempts very funny. :p

Author:  Jeff [ Sat Jun 21, 2003 9:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"

Just reading through Malcolm’s review I was just musing what a “Giselle” would look like which not only hashed through the usual social and gender inequality issues but upped the ante with some really nasty Oedipal variations.

Let’s see … in the normal psychological development, the "Oedipal family drama," the infant male desires the mother. But she is proscribed (the incest taboo) by the greater authority and power of the father and instead the male must satisfy himself with acceptable substitutes such as other women. The prohibited desire is then repressed and forms the basis of the subconscious. This is just the briefest schematic of course.

Is “Giselle” essentially a psychoanalytical process narrative? I don’t think so. But, isn’t there a little resemblance? Doesn’t Albrecht desire a woman he may not possess? And isn’t he compelled by the Prince of Courland’s elder patriarchal authority to content himself with Princess Bathilde? If a production wanted to be really ham handed and Freudian, it could cast a very young dancer for Albrecht, a Norma Desmond “Sunset Boulevard” type for Giselle, a stern patriarch type for Courland, and a younger version of Giselle for Bathilde. Don’t smirk … productions of the play “Hamlet” are that clumsy. Think of the famous b&w Olivier film.

But if Bathilde was Jocasta to Albrecht’s Oedipus what a messy world it would be. Then, would Albrecht’s desire for Giselle be his psyche’s attempt at normal development by trying to avoid the incest which is normally prohibited but is actually sanctioned in our imaginary production? In this production’s messed up psychological universe, we would root for Albrecht and Giselle because avoiding the incestuous union with Bathilde/Jocasta is exactly what normative psychological development requires but this production works against.

I would definitely bring back the original ending where Bathilde and Courland find Albrecht and take him away. It’d be kinda creepy.

We could make it even more messed up by making Myrtha also into a Jocasta type – think of it as a ballet version of D.H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers.” … or is it already a Bourne/AMP ‘been-there-done-that’?

I’m not trying to be difficult on discussing iconic works of the ballet canon. But what I think I’m getting at is that to discuss any particular production – the ways it is similar to or different from the “original” (provided we could define it) – is in fact to appreciate and maybe question the genius of the Ur-text itself.

There is for instance a possible reading of “Giselle” that sees it as the expression of an essentially patriarchal reactionary ideology. The ballet was created by men for an appreciative male audience. In its masculine fantasy, the wayward Albrecht can destroy Giselle in one world and still be saved by her in the next. Okay okay that’s really heavy handed (of an earlier vintage of feminism).

But is it really that easy, anyway? In the daylight world of Act I, social class and the rules of society reign supreme. In the moonlit world of Act II, true power has a feminine face and the rules of magic and of the dance are ascendant. Power and gender are not so easily partitioned, perhaps.

Did the 19th century choreographers map out either interpretation in their productions? Or are the ballets rich and complex enough that they find social and cultural forces circulating through themselves?

I’d like to make a case that thinking about ballets in a variety of ways – including being critical, skeptical, analytical, etc – potentially enriches them. I think we’ve brought up these sorts of issues about “Giselle” and other ballets in other threads.

<small>[ 21 June 2003, 11:40 PM: Message edited by: Jeff ]</small>

Author:  djb [ Sat Jun 21, 2003 11:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Singapore Dance Theatre's "Giselle"

Jeff, can you work the cauliflower in somehow?

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