Dance preview: Royal New Zealand Ballet – Giselle

Narrative classic holds onto its roots but branches out

Dance preview: Royal New Zealand Ballet – Giselle

credit: Evan Li

It’s one of the oldest French ballets in the classical canon, but in the hands of an American and a Dane, working in New Zealand, Giselle has received an international makeover.

Co-created for Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) by Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg, the popular narrative dance has retained its traditional feel, but found some new choreography.

As dancers, both Stiefel and Kobborg performed the lead male role of Albrecht many times in the past, so had an understanding of the cad who betrays innocent village girl Giselle, leading to her death (although Albrecht more than gets his comeuppance in Act Two, when Giselle haunts him from beyond the grave).

At time of creation, back in 2012, Stiefel was the current artistic director of RNZB and keen to work with former Royal Ballet principal dancer Kobborg.

‘In addition to being an exceptional dancer and actor, Johan is a gifted choreographer,’ says Stiefel of his decision to choreograph with Kobborg, ‘and Giselle is one of the great Romantic ballets. So it was truly inspiring to collaborate with my good friend, and we were delighted to have the chance to present our version of a ballet we both knew so well.’

Royal New Zealand Ballet – Giselle

Royal New Zealand Ballet present this classic narrative ballet, telling the tragic tale of lovers Giselle and Albrecht.


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