Ballet Review: Joburg Ballet – Giselle: Princely Persuasion, Or Misogynists Get The Wilis


Bruce Dennill

Writer. Reader. Singer. Songwriter. Believer. Likes to learn.

All content by Bruce Dennill first published on pARTicipate, republished with permission.
Bruce Dennill


Joburg Ballet: Giselle / Artistic Director: Iain Macdonald / Mandela, Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg

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There are plenty of dark moments in famous narratives of the ballet canon, but Giselle’s second act, in which the ghost of a jilted young woman (the title character) and a host of similarly dead and previously rejected girl-ghouls force one man and then almost a second to their death by dancing (which sounds exhausting), is possibly the most sinister.

It’s possible, no matter how many times you watch a classic tale play out, to come away with slightly different conclusions. In this instance, the first act, in which undercover noble Count Albrecht (Luesson Muniz) and swarthy woodsman Hilarion (Gabriel Fernandes) stand off against each other, each believing that they have more right to the hand of fair Giselle (Boston Ballet principal dancer Anaïs Chalendard) it feels – perhaps simply because the #MeToo movement and its allied causes have become such a prominent part of our collective consciousness – like the guys are taking liberties with her feelings that they haven’t earned the right to; making assumptions they shouldn’t be making.

In that light, the revenge of the apparitions a little later on doesn’t feel as brutal as it does in many productions.

Adding complexity to this scenario are some character interpretations particular to the dancers playing each role. Muniz, for example, is, while tall and strong, possessed of a gentle, sensitive demeanour that makes it difficult to frame him as having any nefarious intent,…

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