The eagerness radiates from United Ukrainian Ballet’s ‘Giselle’

Inserted into the program flyer of the ballet Giselle there is an extra sheet with the text of the Ukrainian national anthem in triplicate: in Ukrainian script, transcribed and translated. It therefore comes as no surprise that the heroic song will be sung by the entire cast of the United Ukrainian Ballet on Tuesday evening after the performance. Full chest, hand on heart, with full conviction.

With that final chord, the young company once again underlines the great symbolic significance of this first, official (Dutch) premiere. In a few months, at the initiative of dancer Igone de Jongh and Matthijs Bongertman of Senf Theaterpartners, a training center was set up in The Hague for refugee Ukrainian dancers. The Birmingham Royal Ballet lent set and costumes free of charge and top choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, who himself severed all ties with Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, adapted his Bolshoy version for the predominantly very young dancers. Their joy to be back on stage and, perhaps more importantly, to be able to represent their country can be felt up to the top of Theater Carré.

Elizaveta Gogidze as Giselle and Alexis Tuttunique as Albrecht in Giselle.
Photo Altin Kaftira

Dramatic interventions

That eagerness (worth an extra ball of appreciation) makes the performance of the well-known ballet about the peasant girl Giselle, originally from 1841, deceived by a nobleman, pleasant to watch, although it could be said that it was necessary on an overall level. But that is subordinate to the symbolic value here. For ballet tomans, Ratmansky’s choreography and direction are interesting to watch. Not so much the simplifications he made for the Ukrainians, but especially the dramatic interventions he made on the basis of in-depth archival research. As a result, his version is closer to the original version than many others Giselles – probably then; in the lore of classical ballet, everything is multi-interpretable.

Just like Rachel Beaujean, who is the youngest Dutch Giselle staged, Ratmansky honors the extended classical, partly legible ballet mime in the first act. The nineteenth-century fits in some women’s dances a bit comically to 21st-century eyes, but in the second act discoveries can be made, for example a restored dance for the spirit ensemble. The end is beautiful. Often Count Albrecht is left inconsolable, but here the ghost of Giselle, who died of a broken heart, points her deceitful lover the way to his future: it lies with his noble fiancée.

When Giselle (the dramatic Elizaveta Gogidze) and Albrecht (Alexis Tuttunique) rise to the applause with a Ukrainian flag, the audience steps out of their romantic dream to give a thunderous ovation.

Also read the report: New United Ukrainian Ballet does not want to dance Swan Lake