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All being well I shall be in the audience for the premiere of Akram Khan's Giselle on 27 Sept 2016. This is billed as "a new interpretation" of Giselle which is one of my favourite ballets and the one of the world's most popular. I have not taken too kindly to most "new interpretations" of Swan Lake which is my other favourite and the other classical ballet that is at least as popular as Giselle so why am I so excited about Akram Khan's Giselle?
One reason for my excitement is that I don't really like the story of Giselle as it stands. In my Reflections on Giselle 28 Jan 2014 I wrote that the reason I have a problem with Giselle is the story. Not so much Act I which, as I said in my note, could have come from The Archers but Act II , I continued:
"because Giselle is buried in unconsecrated ground where her spirit joins those of other women who have been seduced and die before their wedding day. They have it in for men and if any man is unfortunate enough to stray across their path as the gamekeeper did they kill him (though having said that I have seen one performance, though I cannot remember which company, where the gamekeeper survives and the curtain falls on his shaking hands with the playboy). That is a pretty unpleasant as well as fantastic story and offends my sensibilities ....."My strategy for coping with Act II is to put the narrative out of my mind and to treat that part of the work as a purely abstract work like Act II of Balanchine's Jewels.
English National Ballet are not giving anything away about Akram Khan's creation. They have posted a synopsis page on their website but all it contains are a series of quotations. There is a film and some photos but they could have come from lots of rehearsals. We know that Adam's score is to be used but we are told that the score has been adapted and that there will be some additional music by Ben Frost. We also know that Akram Khan is working with Ruth Little, the dramaturg who collaborated with Jonathan Watkins on 1984.
One clue that I do have comes from Simon Garner who dances with me at KNT. Simon recently exhibited a mixed media work which included some sound effects at London Scottish House in Manchester (see Images of Giselle 20 May 2016). Someone from ENB visited the exhibition and saw the work and sent a message that he had parts of the ballet were not unlike his work.
Akram Khan's Giselle will start in Manchester and will tour Bristol and Southampton before ending in Sadler's Wells in November. I should add that the company will also dance Mary Skeeping's Giselle at the Coliseum in January.