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Giselle, the NZFC, and Toa Fraser. Choice.

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Samantha Lee
Samantha Lee
RNZB Giselle Qi Huan facing Gillian Murphy CREDIT Ross Brown.

I love ballet. I love it for its apparent effortlessness; I love it for the supreme effort of the dancers who make their performances appear this way; I love that stories filled with meaning can be portrayed with such talented and heartbreaking physicality without a word said.

Let’s face it; I’m a fan.  So I was excited when I heard that a ballet I haven’t seen – Giselle, was to be performed by the RNZB this year.

Giselle “unfolds against the ghostly backdrop of a Rhineland forest haunted by the fearful presence of the "Wilis" - vengeful spirits of abandoned brides. The beautiful peasant girl, Giselle, falls for Albrecht who conceals his identity to win her. The discovery of her lover's deception shatters Giselle's innocence and causes her to die of a broken heart. Albrecht is thrown into the hands of the merciless Wilis, but Giselle cannot bear to watch him die and returns as a ghost to save him.”First performed in 1841, Giselle is one of the most famous and sought-after roles in ballet for its demands of “technical perfection and outstanding grace and lyricism.”

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s season of Giselle, from 10 November to 12 December 2012 was exciting enough for me, but this week they announced something that for a ballet aficionado is nothing short of a miracle; in collaboration with the New Zealand Film Commission the RNZB is producing Giselle, a feature film.

“Ethan Stiefel, recently retired world renowned Principal Dancer of the American Ballet Theatre, will co-choreograph and produce Giselle the ballet with Johan Kobborg, the internationally acclaimed Principal Dancer of London's Royal Ballet.”

Giselle the film will be produced by Matthew Metcalfe (Dean Spanley, Love Birds), and directed by the acclaimed filmmaker Toa Fraser (pictured) (No.2, Dean Spanley).  It will capture performances, rehearsals and much more.

"Our film is an interpretation of the Royal New Zealand Ballet's beautiful, moving production of Giselle," says Toa Fraser.  "The film will move in and out of the theatre, through time and space, to create a truly cinematic, poetic retelling of the story".”

Prima Ballerina Gillian Murphy will star in Giselle the film and Giselle the ballet. Audiences who are familiar with The Secret Lives of Dancers will be familiar with her and with the talent, passion and incredible effort the RNZB dancers display for all of their performances.

Ballet is growing in popularity in New Zealand and the perception that it’s a boring night out for old people has been well and truly dispelled. When attending Cinderella recently in Auckland I was pleased to note the audience ran the gamut from young to old – and the performance received a standing ovation. The New Zealand Film Commission investment in the production of a feature film speaks to the fact that ballet no longer belongs to a niche market – its popularity means that the story and performance of this ballet will be appreciated by a whole range of New Zealanders.

Giselle the feature film, in Toa Fraser’s hands, will undoubtedly be a success story for storytelling and for the collaboration between film and ballet.

I am looking forward with interest to attending the RNZB season of Giselle – and am so keen to watch Giselle the film on the silver screen.

What: Giselle

When: The Telstraclear Season of Giselle runs from 10 November to 12 December 2012

Booking information here


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