Maddy Price reviews Akram Khan’s Giselle at Sadler’s Wells
Choreographer Akram Khan brings Giselle back from the dead in this new full-length work for English National Ballet.
In this 21st century reimagining of the classic, the centuries old ballet is given new life with vibrant choreography from Akram Khan, a pounding score from Vincenzo Lamagna, and a contemporary story from Ruth Little. The happy villagers of the original are transformed into disaffected migrant workers, trapped behind a huge concrete wall, and Albrecht’s family and fellow noblemen look like something straight out of The Capitol in The Hunger Games, and are no less terrifying.
The results of all this modernisation are truly stunning. Khan’s choreography is powerful but beautiful, seamlessly blending contemporary dance with classical Indian Kathak, and flashes of the original ballet. Act I is a slowly building crescendo of menace – the pas de deux between the lovers is tender and joyful, but there is no mistaking the darkness that lies underneath. The bodies of the migrant workers are filled with a dangerous energy, sprinting across the stage and surging together to move as one perfectly fused unit.
Act II brings a truly terrifying dance of the Wilis (Wilis are ghosts of women betrayed by their lovers, who lure men into the woods and dance them to death, in case you didn’t know). Fans of the original ballet will get more out of this act as Khan hints at the traditional choreography, and makes it even more thrilling by adding his own twist. But anyone can enjoy this gothic spectacle, as Giselle’s dead body is dragged across the stage before being conjured into a half-living/half-dead being, with the moves to match.
Akram Khan’s Giselle is a chilling, but powerfully moving experience. Book now for its return in 2017, as tickets are sure to disappear fast.