Royal Winnipeg Ballet delivers an old favourite in Giselle

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet does it again with Giselle. David Cooper

Much like the Disney vault, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is resurrecting an old favourite.

Originally premiered in 1841, the classic Giselle tells the tale of heartbreak and loss from beyond the grave.

Giselle is a peasant girl that falls in love with a deceitful nobleman who has disguised himself as a peasant in order to “sow some wild oats” prior to his marriage.

Hilarion, a gameskeeper who is in love with the girl, warns her against trusting the disguised Albrecht, but she fails to heed his advice. When it is revealed that Giselle has been betrayed, she goes mad and dies.

But that is not the end of Giselle.

The audience is introduced to the more ghostly side of the story with the introduction of the Wilis in the second act, as Hilarion grieves at Giselle’s grave.

The Wilis are an ensemble of girls who have been jilted at the altar, and come back from the grave to exact revenge for their loss by dancing men to death.

Alanna McAdie portrays one of those Wilis - an ethereal, vengeful spirit.

The 21-year-old is a graduate of the RWB School Professional Division as well as the Collegiate at the University of Winnipeg, and she has been enjoying her first season with the company as an apprentice.

“In the first act I’m a peasant girl, or a pas de six girl,” McAdie says by phone over a break from her rigorous rehearsal schedule. “Then we’re Wilis in the second act.

“I love ballets, like Swan Lake, where you’re a real person in the first act, and then you totally transform into this ethereal creature,” she says. “It’s been an amazing experience, because the Wilis rehearsals are almost solemn. Our characters were all left at the altar, left by our husbands-to-be, so we’ve all suffered heartbreak.”

While Giselle may seem like a weak female character, the second act packs a girl power punch.

“There’s actually only two males on stage in the whole second act - Albrecht and Hilarion,” she says. “Myrtha is the queen of the Wilis, and she sort of leads the army (of ghosts). Hilarion and Albrecht are in love with Giselle and (Myrtha) has so much anger towards these characters because we’ve all suffered the heartbreak of these men.

“We end up killing Hilarion off and throwing him into the lake. It’s just a really powerful story.”

Thanks to the choreography and musical score, the emotionality comes easily to the Wilis.

“Adolphe Adam wrote the music for it. It’s incredible music. You find yourself in certain scenes so angry at Hilarion, and it’s just because the music is so strong,” McAdie says.

“At other points you’re so heartbroken. The music has had such a huge impact on creating the role for me.

“Sometimes you’re just standing there, like when Giselle and Albrecht are dancing and you’re just standing at the side, it’s purely the music pulling the emotion out of you.”

The role of Giselle is to be danced by Vanessa Lawson in her first role this season following her recovery from an injury.

Lawson first danced this role the last time the ballet was presented 10 years ago, but this production has been revamped, with new costumes and new sets.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Giselle is at the Centennial Concert Hall from Wednesday, March 7 to Sunday, March 11. Curtain at 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinée curtain at 2 p.m. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster and the RWB Box Office at 204-956-2792. Visit for more information.

Published in Volume 66, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 1, 2012)

Related Reads