Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

Giselle

It’s such an honour to bring to Ottawa a vast world of dance, shaped by some of the most gifted and innovative artists working across a broad spectrum of styles and influences. As we continue to search out the best and brightest dance companies to present to you, our wonderfully receptive and enthusiastic audience, we invite you to explore the new and the familiar on this extraordinary journey of life in motion! 

I am thrilled to welcome Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal back to our Ballet series with the world premiere of its Giselle, adapted by recently appointed Artistic Director Ivan Cavallari. What a treat to experience a new production of this timeless story ballet, complete with the complexities of its human emotions – love and innocence, betrayal and forgiveness – wrapped in the ethereal beauty of one of the world’s most famous ballets. NAC Dance is honoured to bring you these performances on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Nation, and we respectfully acknowledge them as past, present and future stewards of this land. Enjoy!

Giselle

From the time it was first performed by the Paris Opera Ballet, in 1841, Giselle has never ceased to inspire choreographers and dancers. Giselle, an innocent peasant girl, is seduced by Duke Albrecht, who is betrothed to another and hides his real identity from her. Once discovered, Albrecht’s deception inflicts a deep wound in Giselle, and she gradually sinks into madness. Alone among the Wilis – the spirits of maidens who died before their wedding – she returns to haunt the Duke’s nights.

For the first time in 20 years, Les Grands Ballets will perform this gem of the classic repertoire, with its famous tableaux of pointes and white tutus, faithfully adapted from the original. With its powerful theme of undying love that transcends madness and death, this iconic ballet pits myth against reality, and the result is both captivating and overwhelming. 

Giselle: A timeless classical masterpiece

The story of Giselle, one of the gems of the French Romantic ballet repertoire, originally choreographed by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli in 1841 and revived by Marius Petipa in 1903, is well-known and cherished. This season’s Les Grands Ballets adaptation of Giselle is being re-staged in a traditional form, by Ivan Cavallari, assisted by Marina Villanuava. 

Giselle is heartbroken when she discovers that Albrecht, the man she loves, is in reality a prince betrothed to another woman. Devastated by grief and her intense feeling of yearning, the young peasant girl succumbs to madness and dies. She joins the ghostly spiritual wilis, young brides-to-be who have died before their nuptials and who condemn men to dance themselves to death.

Critics often describe Giselle as a perfect piece of ballet. What audiences connect with is the human element in the story: love, and betrayal in love, is a common, enduring theme. In Giselle, we see a young woman who not only realizes the truth, but by Act 2, she moves past that, and accepts her duplicitous lover.

There have been many Giselles for the ages, including Anna Pavlova and Tamara Karsavina, but Carlotta Grisi debuted in the dual title role of this ballet that still represents an acting challenge to ballerinas today: the sensual and playful peasant girl of the first act and her transformation into a wili in the second act.

On January 12, 1915, critic Akim Volynsky wrote in his review in the newspaper Birzhevye Vedomosti, describing Giselle as a “monument of high art on the stage… a fantastic work.” He raves about Grisi’s performance: “With her childlike face and the expression of guileless joy in her eyes, Grisi was beyond praise.” In Giselle’s famous extended mad scene, he cites the ballerina’s reading and execution of the scene as “tender, elegant, almost sweet confusion.” 

Writer Jennifer Homans in her book, Apollo’s Angels, adroitly contextualizes Giselle as “the first modern ballet.” She describes how “the French Romantics invented ballet as we know it today: they broke the hold on dance of words, pantomime, and the story ballet and completely shifted the axis of the art – it was no longer about men, power, and aristocratic manners, classical gods and heroic deeds; or even quaint village events and adventures.” Instead, writes Homans, “It was an art of women devoted to charting the misty inner worlds of dreams and the imagination.”

Homans posits that what mattered in Giselle and other Romantic ballets were bold new developments using “movement, gesture, and music to capture an evanescent memory fleeting thought – to give concrete physical and theatrical form to the… immaterial stuff of the mind.” And so, in an evolutionary turn, the dance itself became the thing. 

Text by Philip Szporer

What is “ballet blanc”?

Magic, mystery and ethereal beauty are all characteristics reflecting the concerns of the Romantic Ballet period (roughly 1832–1850). Themes in these ballets were preoccupied with the raging internal conflicts of anxiety and desires, humankind and nature, and the links between society and the supernatural, with stories of spiritual creatures like sylphs and the wilis, the souls of virgin young women who died before marriage, betrayed by their lovers. 

“Ballet blanc,” which means “white ballet,” appeared for the first time in the 19th century Romantic ballet. Representing the spiritual realm, in the second acts of La Sylphide (1832), Giselle (1841), and Swan Lake (1877), ballerinas performed in white tutus, portraying lovelorn beauties seeking unattainable love that blooms beyond the grave. The tradition of the “ballet blanc” was a radical departure from the national dances of the era, the latter of which were “viewed as interchangeable divertissements,” says historian Lynn Garafola.

Ballerinas portraying sylphs and other ethereal creatures wore an emblematic costume: long, filmy cloudlike virginal white tulle ballet dresses, or tutus, with several underskirts, introduced beneath their tailored bodice. In the supernatural realm of the wilis, the tutus arguably make an essential contribution to this unearthly atmosphere. Their whiteness recalls the reflection of the light of the moon. This “look,” replicated by the entire ensemble, was subsequently immortalized in many lithographs of the era.

Writer Robert Grescovic notes that ballet costuming “got inalterably changed with the advent of the ‘sylphide’ dress of Marie Taglioni.” The ballerina, who took audiences by storm in the ballet La Sylphide, choreographed by her father Filippo Taglinoni, was known for shortening her skirts, with her hemline falling between the knee and the ankle. The tutu’s diaphanous quality gave the dancer’s movements a light, ethereal and floating quality, making it look like Taglioni flew in the performance, and prominently showing off her excellent pointe work and seemingly effortless technique.

Text by Philip Szporer

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

Moving the world. Differently.

For over 60 years, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal has been a creation, production and international performance company devoted to the development of dance in all its forms, while always faithful to the spirit of classical ballet. The dancers of Les Grands Ballets, under the artistic direction of Ivan Cavallari, perform choreographies by creators both long-established and trendsetting. 

Situated at the heart of Montreal’s Quartier des spectacles, Les Grands Ballets embodies an innovative holistic approach, unique in the world. That approach has resulted in Les Studios and in the National Centre for Dance Therapy, which together promote all the benefits that dance can bring. The company’s mission is also to ensure accessibility to art for everyone; in that spirit, its achievements include the founding of The Nutcracker Fund, which every year enables thousands of children to enjoy a first ballet experience. 

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Ivan Cavallari,  Artistic Director

Marc Lalonde, Executive Director

Constance V. Pathy, C.M.,C.Q., DMus., President 

Ludmilla Chiriaeff, Founder 

Gradimir Pankov, Artistic Director Emeritus

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Artistic Team

Ivan Cavallari, Artistic Director

Pierre Lapointe, Principal Ballet Master

Steve Coutereel, Ballet Master 

Marina Villanuava, Rehearsal Master and  Assistant to Ivan Cavallari for Giselle

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Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal
2018–2019 Season Dancers

Principal dancers
Vanesa Garcia-Ribala Montoya, Myriam Simon

First soloists
Hervé Courtain, Jean-Sébastien Couture, Emma Garau Cima, Marcin Kaczorowski

Soloists
Raphaël Bouchard, Célestin Boutin, Mai Kono, Sahra Maira, Anya Nesvitaylo, Stephen Satterfield, Chen Sheng, Yui Sugawara

Demi-soloists
Chisato Ide,  Émily He, Anna Ishii, Věra Kvarčáková, Éline Malègue, André Santos, Ryo Shimizu

Corps de Ballet
Julia Bergua, Guiseppe Canale, Esabelle Chen,  Matthew Cluff, Kiara DeNae Felder, Dane Holland, Nicholas Jones,  Yi Li Law, Diana Léon James Lyttle, Tetyana Martyanova, Melih Mertel, Hamilton Nieh, Meg Honey Parry, Stefano Russiello, Maude Sabourin, Alessio Scognamiglio, Eléonore Thomas

Casting

subject to change

Giselle
Yui Sugawara (4)
Myriam Simon (5)
Mai Kono (6)

Albrecht
Alessio Scognamiglio (4)
Melih Mertel (5)
Matthew Cluff (6)

Hilarion
Célestin Boutin (4)
Hamilton Nieh (5)
Dane Holland (6)

Bertha
Francine Liboiron (4, 6)
Anne Dryburgh (5)

Bathilde
Tetyana Martyanova (4, 6)
Esabelle Chen (5)

The Duke
Marcin Kaczorowski (4, 6)
Dane Holland (5)

Myrtha
Vanesa G.R. Montoya (4)
Anya Nesvitaylo (5)
Maude Sabourin (6)

Friends (f)
Emily He (4, 6), Chisato Ide (5)
Emma Garau Cima (4, 6), Yi Li Law (5)
Kiara DeNae Felder (4, 6), Diana Léon (5)
Meg Honey Parry (4, 6), Julia Bergua (5)

Friends (m)
Raphaël Bouchard, André Santos, Hervé Courtain and Ryo Shimizu (4)

Célestin Boutin, Hervé Courtain, Alessio Scognamiglio and Chen Sheng (5)

Raphaël Bouchard, André Santos, Hervé Courtain and Chen Sheng (6)

Peasants (f)
Catherine Toupin (4, 6), Rose Trahan (5)
Eline Malègue (4, 6), Sarah-Maude Laliberté (5)
Věra Kvarčáková

Esabelle Chen (4, 6), Maude Sabourin (5)
Julia Bergua (4, 6), Éléonore Thomas (5)
Yi Li Law (4, 6), Kirsten Marsh (5)

Peasants (m)
Jean-Sébastien Couture, Nicholas Jones, Dane Holland (4)
Giuseppe Canale (5, 6)

Stefano Russiello, James Lyttle, Stephen Satterfield (4, 6)
Jérémy Galdeano (5)

The procession
Elodie Scholtes-Labrecque, Emma-Lynn Mackay-Ronacher, Anja Fanslau, Claire Campbell, Quentin Nabor, Antoine Charbonneau, Vahan Martirosyan, Zao Dinel

Two Wilis
Emily He and Emma Garau Cima (4, 6)
Anna Ishii and Chisato Ide (5)

The Wilis
Anna Ishii or Emma Garau Cima, Chisato Ide or Emily He, Kiara DeNae Felder, Věra Kvarčáková, Catherine Toupin, Rose Trahan or Mai Kono, Meg Honey Parry, Yi Li Law, Kirsten Marsh, Diana Léon, Anya Nesvitaylo or Tatiana Lerebours, Sophie Czolij, Julia Bergua, Eleonore Thomas or Yui Sugawara, Eline Malègue, Esabelle Chen, Maude Sabourin or Sarah-Maude Laliberté, Tetyana Martyanova

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