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What Is The Story Of Giselle Ballet What Is The Story Of Giselle Ballet


What Is The Story Of Giselle Ballet

Written by: Alexandrina Koons

Discover the enchanting story behind Giselle, a timeless ballet that captivates audiences with its graceful movements and heartfelt narrative. Embark on a journey through love, betrayal, and redemption in this captivating ballet performance.

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Table of Contents


Giselle Ballet is a timeless masterpiece that has captured the hearts of audiences all over the world. With its hauntingly beautiful music, intricate choreography, and poignant storyline, Giselle has become a staple in the world of ballet. This ballet, which was first performed in 1841, holds a special place in the history of dance, as it marked the transition from Romanticism to the beginnings of classical ballet.

Giselle tells the story of a young peasant girl who falls in love with a nobleman disguised as a commoner. However, their love is doomed as deceit, betrayal, and supernatural forces come into play. Set against the backdrop of rural life and the ethereal world of the Wilis, Giselle Ballet combines elements of romance, tragedy, and the supernatural to create a captivating and emotionally charged experience for both dancers and spectators.

Join me as we delve into the history, creation, plot, themes, and legacy of Giselle Ballet. We will explore the artistic vision behind its creation, the symbolism woven into the choreography, and the lasting impact it has had on the world of ballet.


Historical Background

To understand the significance of Giselle Ballet, we must delve into the historical context in which it was created. The Romantic era in the early 19th century saw a shift in artistic expression, as artists began to move away from the formalities of the classical period and instead focused on the expression of emotions and the exploration of the human spirit.

During this time, ballet began to evolve and embrace the Romantic ideals of passion, individualism, and the supernatural. The success of ballets such as La Sylphide and The Sleeping Beauty set the stage for the emergence of Giselle, which would become one of the most beloved ballets of this era.

Giselle Ballet was choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, with a libretto by Théophile Gautier and music composed by Adolphe Adam. It made its debut at the Paris Opera on June 28, 1841, with Carlotta Grisi as the original Giselle and Lucien Petipa as Albrecht.

The creation of Giselle Ballet marked a turning point in the world of dance. It introduced a new level of dramatic storytelling and incorporated elements of the supernatural and the ethereal, which had never been seen before in such a prominent ballet.

The ballet quickly gained popularity and was met with critical acclaim. Its success can be attributed to the captivating storyline, the emotional range demanded of the dancers, and the technical innovations introduced in the choreography. Giselle Ballet was a perfect convergence of music, dance, and storytelling, capturing the essence of the Romantic era in all its glory.


Creation of Giselle Ballet

The creation of Giselle Ballet was a collaborative effort that brought together the talents of choreographers Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, librettist Théophile Gautier, and composer Adolphe Adam. Each of these individuals played a key role in shaping the unique and captivating nature of the ballet.

Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, both renowned choreographers of the time, were responsible for the intricate dance sequences and the overall staging of the ballet. They worked closely together to create the choreography, drawing inspiration from the Romantic ideals of expression and emotion.

Théophile Gautier, a prominent French writer and poet, was tasked with crafting the libretto, or the storyline, of Giselle. His poetic and evocative writing style brought the characters to life and added depth to a narrative already steeped in emotion.

Adolphe Adam, a prolific composer known for his melodic genius, composed the music for Giselle Ballet. His score perfectly complemented the dramatic and ethereal elements of the ballet, creating an atmospheric backdrop to the unfolding story.

Together, these four creative minds came together to bring Giselle Ballet to life. The collaborative process allowed for a seamless integration of music, movement, and storytelling, resulting in a ballet that transcended its time and became a timeless classic.

It is worth noting that Giselle Ballet underwent some changes and modifications over time. Various choreographers and companies have put their own unique stamp on the ballet, adding their interpretations and variations to the original choreography. However, the essence of Giselle has remained intact, with its powerful storytelling and emotional impact continuing to captivate audiences to this day.


Plot Summary

Giselle Ballet tells the tragic tale of a young peasant girl named Giselle who falls in love with a nobleman disguised as a commoner. The ballet is divided into two acts, each with its own distinct atmosphere and set of characters.

Act 1: The first act takes place in a rustic village, where Giselle lives with her mother, Berthe. Giselle is a dreamy and innocent young girl who is loved by all in the village, including a local gamekeeper named Hilarion. Count Albrecht, the nobleman who disguises himself as a villager named Loys, visits the village and immediately falls in love with Giselle. They dance together, and their connection becomes evident to the villagers.

However, Hilarion becomes suspicious of Loys and begins investigating his true identity. Meanwhile, a group of aristocratic hunters arrives, including Albrecht’s fiancée, Bathilde. When Bathilde discovers Albrecht’s deception, Giselle’s heart breaks, and she descends into madness, ultimately leading to her death.

Act 2: The second act takes place in a moonlit forest, where the spirits of young women who have died before their wedding, known as the Wilis, reside. Giselle, now a Wili herself, joins their ghostly ranks, but she retains her love and forgiveness for Albrecht.

Hilarion, grief-stricken and remorseful, enters the forest to mourn Giselle’s death. The Wilis, led by their queen, Myrtha, condemn him to dance to his death for betraying Giselle’s love. Albrecht ventures into the forest seeking Giselle’s forgiveness, and she protects him from the Wilis’ wrath.

In the end, Giselle’s love and sacrifice free Albrecht from the grasp of the Wilis, and she returns to her resting place among the spirits. The ballet concludes with Albrecht mourning Giselle’s loss, while the Wilis continue their eternal dance.

Giselle Ballet’s storyline is a poignant exploration of love, betrayal, forgiveness, and the power of the supernatural. The seamless blend of dance, music, and storytelling creates a captivating experience for audiences as they witness the tragic fate of Giselle and the consequences of deceit and heartbreak.


Act 1

The first act of Giselle Ballet introduces us to the charming village where the young peasant girl Giselle resides. Surrounded by the love and adoration of the villagers, Giselle’s innocence and free spirit are evident in her every movement.

As the act unfolds, a nobleman disguised as a commoner named Loys enters the village and catches Giselle’s eye. Unbeknownst to Giselle, Loys is actually Count Albrecht, engaged to a woman of noble birth named Bathilde. Captivated by Giselle’s beauty and vivaciousness, Albrecht desires nothing more than to be with her.

Giselle and Albrecht share a blossoming romance, their love expressed through graceful and enchanting dance sequences. However, their happiness is threatened by Hilarion, the gamekeeper who is in love with Giselle. Hilarion becomes suspicious of Loys and starts to investigate his true identity.

Amidst the love triangle, a group of aristocratic hunters, including Bathilde, arrives in the village. When Bathilde reveals herself as Albrecht’s fiancée, Giselle’s world is shattered. Overwhelmed with heartbreak, Giselle descends into madness, dancing herself to exhaustion.

Tragically, Giselle’s fragile heart gives out, and she succumbs to her despair, leading to her untimely death. The first act concludes with the villagers mourning the loss of their beloved Giselle, Hilarion filled with guilt and remorse, and Albrecht devastated by the consequences of his deceit.

Act 1 of Giselle Ballet sets the stage for the dramatic events that will unfold in the second act. It showcases the contrasting emotions of love, betrayal, and heartbreak, leaving the audience eagerly anticipating the resolutions and revelations that lie ahead.


Act 2

The second act of Giselle Ballet takes us into a moonlit forest where the spirits of young women, known as the Wilis, reside. The Wilis are the spirits of maidens who died before their wedding day and are condemned to roam the earth at night seeking revenge on any man they encounter.

Giselle, now a Wili herself, joins the haunting ranks of the Wilis. Despite becoming one of the vengeful spirits, Giselle’s love and forgiveness for Albrecht shine through. She possesses a unique power to protect him from the wrath of the Wilis.

The act begins with Hilarion, filled with remorse for his previous actions, entering the forest to mourn Giselle’s death. Unaware of the supernatural forces at play, he becomes the first victim of the Wilis’ wrath. They force him to dance until exhaustion and ultimately to his demise.

Soon after, Albrecht, consumed by guilt and seeking forgiveness, arrives in the forest. He encounters Giselle’s spirit and pleads for her forgiveness. In a display of her undying love, Giselle protects Albrecht from the vengeful intentions of the Wilis, dancing beside him and guiding him through the dangers of the supernatural realm.

Throughout the act, the Queen of the Wilis, Myrtha, asserts her dominance and commands her ghostly companions in their relentless pursuit of vengeance. Yet, Giselle’s spirit remains pure and steadfast in her love for Albrecht.

In a climactic scene, the love between Giselle and Albrecht proves strong enough to break the curse of the Wilis. Giselle’s pure heart and ultimate sacrifice free Albrecht from the clutches of the vengeful spirits, granting him a chance at redemption and forgiveness.

The ballet concludes with Giselle returning to her resting place among the Wilis, while Albrecht, filled with sorrow and remorse, mourns the loss of his beloved. The ethereal yet tragic beauty of Act 2 leaves audiences captivated by the power of love, forgiveness, and the supernatural.

Act 2 of Giselle Ballet is a mesmerizing display of haunting choreography, showcasing the sorrow and redemption that can be found even in the afterlife. It serves as a powerful reminder of the consequences of betrayal and the enduring power of love in the face of adversity.


Themes and Symbolism

Giselle Ballet is rich with themes and symbolism that add layers of depth and meaning to the story. These elements contribute to the overall emotional impact of the ballet and provide opportunities for interpretation and reflection.

Love and Betrayal: The theme of love and betrayal is central to Giselle Ballet. The story explores the complexities of romantic relationships, the consequences of deceit, and the power of forgiveness. Giselle’s love for Albrecht is unwavering, even in death, while his betrayal leads to tragic consequences for both.

Supernatural Forces: The presence of the Wilis, the spirits of jilted brides, introduces an ethereal and otherworldly element to the ballet. They symbolize the power of vengeance and the transformative nature of death. The contrast between the earthly and supernatural realms adds tension and mystery to the narrative.

Redemption and Forgiveness: Giselle’s act of protecting Albrecht from the wrath of the Wilis reveals a theme of redemption and forgiveness. Despite the pain and betrayal she experienced, Giselle’s forgiving nature transcends the limitations of death and offers hope for redemption and healing.

Illusion and Disguise: The use of disguise and illusion plays a significant role in the plot of Giselle. Albrecht’s disguise as a commoner reflects the social constraints of the time and highlights the divide between social classes. This theme underscores the consequences of deception and the importance of honesty in relationships.

Nature and Rural Life: The village setting in Act 1 represents the simplicity and beauty of rural life. It serves as a contrast to the supernatural forest of Act 2, showcasing the harmony between humans and nature. The natural elements in Giselle Ballet symbolize purity, innocence, and the transience of life.

Mortality and the Afterlife: Giselle’s transformation into a Wili explores the theme of mortality and the afterlife. The presence of the Wilis and their supernatural existence raises questions about the nature of death, the power of love beyond the grave, and the consequences of unfinished business in the mortal realm.

These themes and symbolism in Giselle Ballet contribute to its enduring appeal and offer audiences a profound exploration of human emotions, the supernatural realm, and the power of love and forgiveness. Through the art of ballet, the ballet transports viewers to a world of beauty, tragedy, and reflection.


Influence and Legacy

Giselle Ballet has left an indelible mark on the world of dance, influencing countless choreographers, dancers, and productions since its premiere in 1841. Its enduring legacy can be seen in the continued popularity of the ballet and its frequent inclusion in the repertoire of ballet companies worldwide.

One of the most significant contributions of Giselle Ballet is its influence on the development of Romantic ballet. The ballet exemplifies the characteristic themes and aesthetics of the Romantic era, including the exploration of intense emotions, supernatural elements, and the elevation of the female protagonist.

The ballet’s success also owes a great deal to the technical innovations introduced in the choreography. The ethereal movements and intricate footwork required of the dancers, particularly in Act 2 with the Wilis, set a new standard for artistic expression and technical proficiency in ballet.

Over the years, Giselle Ballet has become a benchmark for aspiring ballerinas, considered the epitome of technical and dramatic prowess. The role of Giselle has been coveted by many prima ballerinas, who have brought their unique interpretations and artistry to the character.

Giselle Ballet’s influence extends beyond the ballet world, permeating popular culture and inspiring adaptations in various art forms. It has been the subject of films, literature, and even visual art, testament to its enduring appeal and profound storytelling.

Furthermore, Giselle’s accessible narrative and emotional depth have made it a gateway ballet for many who are new to the art form. Its universal themes of love, betrayal, and redemption resonate with audiences of all ages and backgrounds, uniting them through a shared appreciation of the power of dance and storytelling.

Today, Giselle remains a cornerstone of the classical ballet repertoire, performed and cherished by companies worldwide. Its timeless beauty and timeless story continue to captivate audiences, ensuring that the legacy of Giselle Ballet will continue to thrive for generations to come.


Notable Performances

Giselle Ballet has seen numerous notable performances by renowned ballet companies and legendary dancers throughout its history. These performances have showcased the artistry and technical brilliance of the dancers, solidifying Giselle’s reputation as a ballet of immense significance.

One of the most iconic interpretations of Giselle was performed by legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Her portrayal of Giselle captivated audiences with its ethereal quality and emotional intensity. Pavlova’s delicate and nuanced performance set the standard for future dancers and solidified Giselle as one of her signature roles.

In more recent years, Russian prima ballerina Natalia Makarova delivered unforgettable performances as Giselle, earning critical acclaim and leaving a lasting impact on audiences worldwide. Her technical precision, expressive artistry, and ability to embody the vulnerability and innocence of the character added new dimensions to the role.

Alessandra Ferri, an esteemed Italian ballerina, is also recognized for her exceptional portrayal of Giselle. Her performances were noted for their dramatic depth and emotional authenticity, captivating audiences with her ability to effortlessly convey the tragic journey of the character.

Furthermore, the Paris Opera Ballet has been responsible for some significant performances of Giselle throughout the years. Renowned ballerinas such as Carlotta Grisi, who originated the role of Giselle, and Yvette Chauviré have graced the stage with their exquisite interpretations, leaving an indelible mark on the ballet’s history.

Not only have individual dancers made their mark in Giselle, but notable ballet companies from around the world have presented powerful renditions of this beloved work. The Royal Ballet in London, American Ballet Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet, and Mariinsky Ballet, among others, have all showcased their exceptional talent through poignant and breathtaking performances of Giselle.

These notable performances of Giselle Ballet have not only elevated the status of the ballet but have also contributed to the preservation and evolution of the art form. The dedication and artistry displayed by these exceptional dancers serve as a testament to the enduring power and relevance of Giselle as one of the greatest ballets in history.



Giselle Ballet stands as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling through dance. Its hauntingly beautiful music, intricate choreography, and emotionally charged narrative continue to captivate audiences around the world. This timeless masterpiece has left an indelible mark on the world of ballet, influencing choreographers, dancers, and audiences for generations.

From its creation during the Romantic era to the present day, Giselle Ballet has remained a symbol of passion, betrayal, forgiveness, and the supernatural. Its themes and symbolism resonate deeply, exploring the complexities of human relationships and the fragility of life.

The ballet’s influence and legacy are reflected in the countless notable performances by legendary dancers and prestigious ballet companies. Through their interpretations, these dancers have brought Giselle’s poignant story to life, immersing audiences in its emotional depth and artistic beauty.

Giselle Ballet’s lasting impact extends beyond the confines of the ballet world. It has inspired adaptations in various art forms and serves as a gateway ballet, introducing newcomers to the enchanting world of dance. Its accessibility and universal themes resonate with audiences of all backgrounds, fostering a shared appreciation for the power of storytelling and the beauty of movement.

As we reflect on the historical background, creation, plot, themes, and legacy of Giselle Ballet, we can appreciate the timeless relevance and artistic achievements of this ballet. Its ability to evoke powerful emotions, ignite the imagination, and showcase the extraordinary capabilities of dancers make it a true masterpiece.

Whether experienced on the grand stages of renowned ballet companies or through intimate productions in local theaters, Giselle Ballet continues to enchant, inspire, and leave a lasting impression. It remains a testament to the enduring power of dance to touch our souls, telling stories that transcend time and connect us to the deepest aspects of the human experience.

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