I fell in love with ballet this February. I had seen ballet performances live and on screen before. Classical ballet, I mean. Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Don Quixote. Gorgeous, exquisite dancing. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Classical ballet is like a garden rose in its full blossom, so beautiful and perfect that it seems artificial and cold. I watched the dance, but I didn’t feel it.
The contemporary ballet “Giselle” changed everything. I was not watching, I was feeling. Two dimensions were ripped apart with multi-layered emotions I was overwhelmed with. Music and movement became one on the stage and inside me, stirring up my memories, thoughts and fantasies. The art was life in every single moment.
That day I could not rationally explain what’d happened, and didn’t want to. I knew it was a unique experience impossible to be shared. Yesterday I watched this ballet again, and although I was not less engaged, I was able to discern a few elements that kindled my love in the first place.
I like that visually this ballet is not that of glossy beauty with ballerinas looking like perfect dolls. It is …. Oh, what is it? Subtle, grey, simple, but overpowering by its inner strength.
I like that the movements feel like breathing, sometimes languid and calm, sometimes stormy and violent, often repetitive and always in measure with the heartbeat, music beat.
I like the music which is not a symphony of vibrant colours, but a simple melody of a soul following a breathing rhythm and sometimes skipping a beat. The moments when music stops or turns into noise are my favourite.
I like the stage setting. Darkish, with a huge wall in the centre. On the wall, there are numerous handprints at chest and eye level, with one outlier print, way above the others. Symbolizing dreams and ambitions at the start of the play, they embody futile attempts to turn back the clock and escape the depths of despair.
This ballet has shown me unknown ways to feel and see art. I just hope it’s not like the first love, never to be repeated again.
PS This production of “Giselle” is created by choreographer Akram Khan for English National Ballet in 2016