‘Giselle’: exploring romanticism through dance

To close a successful season while simultaneously opening another sort of  “season,” Butler Ballet presents “Giselle.”

“Giselle” is the last performance of the academic year for the Butler Ballet, but it will be one of the first performances of the first annual Butler University ArtsFest.

Larry Attaway, dance department chair, said “Giselle” is credited as being the first full-length romantic story ballet.

Giselle is a ballet wrought with emotion. Themes of love and betrayal drive the storyline. Because of the intense emotion, this ballet requires a lot of acting from performers.

“It’s very challenging for students,” Attaway said. “It’s a difficult ballet on so many different levels.”

“All the principals have to have superb acting abilities from the title character on down.”

Senior Dani Morano, who plays the title role of Giselle, said she must do more than just dance steps because it’s such a character role.

Morano has to remain in character, dance and act through the entire two-hour ballet.

Attaway said Giselle is a complex character. She goes from being an innocent country girl to the ballet’s heroine.

Five Butler dance professors choreographed “Giselle.”

The first act was in the hands of professors Stephan Laurent-Faesi and Marek Cholewa, while the second act was helmed by professor Michelle Jarvis and associate professor Derek Reid with help from Michael Johnson, visiting assistant professor.

The professors have each worked on one or more performances of “Giselle” before in different capacities and brought their individual expertise to the production.

“(Working with the different professors) has its benefits and its challenges,” Morano said. “It’s nice because they have done it. They each have a different take and approach. I get four times as much coaching.”

Cholewa has worked with “Giselle” a number of times in other countries and also here in the U.S.  He is not changing the first act’s choreography from the original but is adding his own flair.

“It’s like restoring a Rembrandt painting,” Cholewa said. “You don’t want to put some of your own lines on it. You want to see it how it is. You want to see the Rembrandt.”

The ballet itself was created in 1841 between two French revolutions.

It’s fitting that the ballet be performed during the opening to the Butler ArtsFest, which has the theme of revolution.

“Some aspects of the score were revolutionary at the time, even though they didn’t break down any doors,” Attaway said. “‘Giselle’ took themes and attached them to characters, and most ballets weren’t like that at the time.”

“Giselle” may have been revolutionary at its conception, but the themes running throughout the ballet are universal.  Cholewa said these themes were recognized, and they continue to happen now.

“(The themes) always come back to us,” Cholewa said. “Someone falls in love, someone will cheat, then there’s heartbrokenness. ‘Giselle’ shows that this exists. It’s not like it won’t ever happen in real life. It does happen.”

Even though the performance can remind audiences of real circumstances, Attaway hopes they come to the ballet for the original reasons it was written.

“It really is the epitome of all the romantic love,” Attaway said. “The unrequited love, the love that is greater than death itself. Romantic ballets were often about escapism. In their own way, they were the escape entertainment of the time.”

“Giselle” will run Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $21.50—$28.50 for adults and $17—$23 for children, students and seniors, depending on seat location.


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