Doug Fullington on Reconstructing Giselle

Giselle
World Premiere, June 3-12, 2011

Peter Boal’s World Premiere staging of Giselle marks the first time an American ballet company has revived a classic based on original material researched by Stepanov notation expert Doug Fullington in collaboration with leading Giselle scholar Marian Smith.



Doug Fullington consults with Marian Smith during
Giselle studio rehearsal. © Angela Sterling.


Our work on Giselle continued in early January with a week of rehearsals in preparation for a demonstration in New York as part of the Guggenheim Museum’s Works and Process series. We gave three successful presentations to sold-out houses, one of which was offered on the internet as a live-feed (available for viewing on the PNB website). Peter Boal, Marian Smith, and I were joined by dancers Carrie Imler, Carla Körbes, James Moore, and Seth Orza, along with Interim Music Director and Conductor Allan Dameron as pianist, Costume Shop Manager Larae Hascall as wardrobe mistress, and Production Stage Manager Sandra Barrack. Our presentation explained our collaborative method of reviving Giselle, utilizing various sources from the 19th and early-20th centuries, and included excerpts from the ballet that featured both dancing and pantomime. Our presentation were well-received and generated a lot of buzz about PNB’s new Giselle.

Principal dancers Carla Körbes and Seth Orza
perform during PNB’s Giselle demonstration
at the Guggenheim Museum’s Works and
Process series in New York City. © Jesson Mata.

We resumed an intensive schedule of rehearsals the week of February 21, with Marian Smith again joining us from her home base in Eugene, where she is a professor at the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance. We made tremendous progress, setting key narrative scenes for Giselle, Albrecht, Albrecht’s squire Wilfrid, and the gamekeeper Hilarion. These included Albrecht’s first entrances in both acts of the ballet; the dramatic highpoint of the first act, when Hilarion reveals Albrecht’s duplicity, triggering Giselle’s descent into madness; Giselle and Albrecht’s first meeting and pas de deux in the second act, after Giselle has been transformed into a ghostly Wili; and the ballet’s final scenes, during which Albrecht bids a final farewell to his beloved and faces the life he must lead without her. We also had the exciting opportunity to revive two scenes from the second act of Giselle that are now rarely performed: Hilarion and his hunters’ fright in the forest at midnight and a group of peasants saved from the Wilis by a wise old man.

Artistic Director Peter Boal at work on Giselle
with principal dancer Carrie Imler. © Angela Sterling.

Excitement about PNB’s new Giselle continues to grow outside the studio as well. Peter, Marian, and I were recently interviewed by radio host Marta Zekan for Seattle’s Arts Channel (watch for a link on the PNB website), we have interview requests from publications as far afield Danze e Danze, the leading Italian dance magazine, and Marian and I will write a preview of Giselle for the May issue of London’s Dancing Times. Looking ahead to our performances in June, we’ll be happily welcoming the Dance Critics Association, the national organization of dance critics, to Seattle for its annual conference, Scheduled in conjunction with PNB’s Giselle premiere, the conference theme this year will very appropriately be dance reconstruction.

Three months and counting until we unveil our new Giselle!

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