6 Ways Giselle Will Give You the Wilis

Drawing from the supernatural themes of the Romantic era and Eastern European folklore, the story of Giselle juxtaposes love and betrayal, life and death, vengeance and forgiveness as a vibrant peasant girl descends to the unearthly realm of the Wilis. Highlighted from the Giselle Audience Production Guide, here are 6 spook factors that push this haunting love story beyond the grave.

That Gives Me the Willies! This phrase, conveying spookiness, may have originated from the ghostly Wilis of Giselle. Jilted in life by their lovers, these ghostly maidens are doomed to roam, seeking vengeance by luring young men to their deaths.

Harry Potter Connection: The legend of the Wilis predates Giselle and assumed shifting forms throughout Eastern European folklore. From maidens who were cursed by God to those who died unbaptized, the variations and pronunciations varied throughout the region. One variation is found in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with the Veela, magical beings whose entrancing beauty compels men to dance to their deaths.

Musical Moods: The first original ballet score, the music of Adolphe Adam also innovates with recurring musical themes that characterize roles and moods throughout the narrative. One eerie example is Giselle and Albrecht’s first love theme, which ironically echoes during Giselle’s mad scene at the end of Act I. The musical theme of the Wilis also shadows Giselle’s mother’s premonition in Act I and again following Albrecht’s betrayal.  

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: Featured in Giselle Act I, this schoolgirl daisy game traces its written roots to the pages of a nun’s 1471 songbook. As Giselle plucks petals from a daisy in Act I, however, this light-hearted game foreshadows Albrecht’s ill-fated betrayal.

Ballet en Blanc: First seen in La Sylphide (1832),this term refers to scenes that feature a female corps de ballet costumed completely in white. Sometimes referred to as “pure ballet,” it emphasizes the movements and dramatic power of the corps, which assumes a menacing aura in Giselle. Act II findsBallet en Blanc taking the ghostly character of the Wilis, who mold their signature arabesques into frightening formations.

The Ballerina’s Dual Role: Perhaps more subtle than the dual role of Swan Lake’s Odette and Odile, Giselle requires intricate artistry to embody both an earthly and ethereal essence, a mystique that makes it the ballerina’s definitive dramatic role. From Giselle’s joyful 32 ballonnés  - a bouncing step or hop –to her Act II arabesques with the Wilis, the foreboding peaks with the sharp setting shift from Giselle’s country village to her grave site.

Opening PBT’s 2012-2013 Season, Giselle with the Orchestra premieres just days before Halloween, Oct. 26-28 at the Benedum Center. Purchase your tickets here.