Part 3 of 3

In Parts One and Two of this little appreciation of Giselle we had a look at the plot and characters, and some famous performers of this most romantic of all ballets, and hinted at the oblique connections to our story.

In Twain’s day, 1887, the only passengers on the Lorelei who might have seen a performance of Giselle would likely have been Russians (and the story does have some) because it wasn’t really performed outside of Russia until the 1900s.

Ballet is always problematic in video. It really isn’t meant to be experienced that way, so at best, ballet on a screen is an echo. But here is one that captures something rare—Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov as Giselle and Albrecht. It’s not great quality footage, but it’s full of potent stuff.

A couple things you can look out for:

0:20—Myrtha, queen of the Wilis compels Albrecht to dance to his death, then Giselle protects him (even though he is the reason for her curse) by taking on some his dancing, to save him.

5:45—Giselle taking Albrecht’s dancing in the “variations” section

8:12—Albrecht on the verge of dying from the enchanted dance, by the gravity-defying Baryshnikov.


For any of you inclined to give this a little more time, here is another superb, extraordinary Giselle: Alessandra Ferri, also in the second act. It’s from the movie “Dancers” so it’s slicker, more polished filming than the previous video. Different experience overall, maybe less raw and real than the other, but Ferri is like air—one of the greatest ballerinas for acting.

(And check ballet-coded gesture at 0:23, Queen Myrtha commands “Dance till you die.”)