Giselle: Reflections

The primary tension in Giselle is the question of acceptance: will Albrecht accept Giselle? will she accept him?

Alexander Short, Hannah Whitley, and Eliza Talbott in Giselle

We know, from the ballet, that he refuses her, wanting instead a loveless, comfortable marriage, but later regrets his choice. She accepts him from beyond the grave, reluctantly at first, but then wholeheartedly, saving him from the wilis, whose number she has supposedly joined. It is a muddy series of vacillations, a long round of the he-loves-me/he-loves-me-not game that they play in the first scene.

My vision of Giselle embraces this vacillation, even intensifies it. The couple perform the same combination of movements with different dynamics: slow and smooth, tense and awkward, furious and rough. Watching it, I am left wondering how they feel about each other. They want each other, but can't stand each other; they can't stay apart, but are too much together.

In the end, he tosses Giselle clear of the wilis. Thus, she does not protect him until sunrise, and he dies. She leaves him, but does not kill him. Does she still love him? His gesture may be read different ways as well: does he send her away for her protection, or does he no longer want her?