Last Saturday OBT began their first show of 2012 with the iconic Giselle. Set in the Rhineland in the Middle Ages, the dancers, garbed as peasants, jeté and brise across the scene like balls whizzing inside a pinball machine, setting off applause at regular intervals. Giselle is an insanely challenging performance, with, as OBT insists, “the most technically demanding choreography in the ballet canon.” It’s one of those pieces that’s incredible to see, as a feat of the human body—and, like Swan Lake, it’s a staple of many ballet companies.
In short, the story follows peasant girl Giselle (performed by three different OBT dancers throughout the run), who falls in love with a duke, then dies of a broken heart. She returns as a spirit, who has teamed up with a group of similarly jilted ballerinas (called the Wilis), who attempt to dance the duke to death (yup, that old routine). The production on the whole is plump with Romantic emotions, which verge on camp—but the difficulty of the dance makes you take it seriously. There's also the sets, which are intricate and lavish, shipped all the way from the fanciful Florence, Italy, as were the costumes.
If there’s any complaints about staid tradition at OBT, the company released their 2012/2013 program recently, and it has a few fun surprises: namely, a show choreographed to a score by the Fleet Foxes, and a collaboration with the Portland Art Museum that involves a certain TBA Pacific Northwest artist.
The last round of shows for Giselle is this weekend, with the pay-your-age program as an option (as well as cheap tickets if you have an Oregon Trail Card, as per the Arts-for-All program, with the final performance on Saturday, March 3.