Classic Ballet Giselle Meets Tinder at the Vancouver Playhouse

Image of Catherine Hurlin in @giselle. Photo by Craig Foster.

When Giselle, the classic ballet, was first performed in Paris in 1841, its choreographers, Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, and composer, Adolphe Adam, probably never imagined how romance would be transformed nearly two centuries later.

The Vancouver Playhouse hosts the world premiere of a 21st century rendering of Giselle that explores how technology and social media have altered how love and relationships are formed, bloom, and sometimes come apart.

From September 5 to 7, 2019, Joshua Beamish/MOVETHECOMPANY’S @giselle will be performed at the Vancouver Playhouse (600 Hamilton Street). The work, directed and choreographed by Joshua Beamish, brings together dancers from a number of illustrious companies: The National Ballet of Canada, American Ballet Theatre, and Pennsylvania Ballet.

The performance takes as its starting point the classic ballet Giselle that tells the tragic tale of a peasant girl who falls in love with Albrecht, who is later revealed to be someone who duped her with deception and lies (he is already promised to someone else). Betrayed, Giselle dies of a broken heart, eventually resurrected by the Wilis, mystical feminine creatures who wish to exact revenge on Albrecht for his cruelty. Giselle must decide whether she wants to become another Wilis, or find it in herself to forgive Albrecht, thereby also deciding her own fate.

In Beamish’s reimagined work, betrayal continues to occur in 2019; however, technology now aids in the covering over of the truth. This updated version, @giselle, focuses on a woman who loses her lover and is ghosted over social media. Her death and resurrection, in this case, happen through digital channels, blurring the line between what is real and what is virtual. The technology that worked against her also provides a platform for her to disseminate her situation, as well as have a certain ghostly immortality.

Image of Catherine Hurlin in @giselle. Photo by Craig Foster.

With Brianna Amore on animation and projection design, the production will incorporate motion capture technology and projected social media imagery in order to locate the characters, as well as the audience, in the confusion and alienation of contemporary communication. As the dancers and the fragmented media appear on stage, @giselle asks viewers to consider how new technologies both bring people together, as well as reinforce their isolation. How can these media platforms be vehicles for power abuses, similar to what nobleman Albrecht performs on a peasant girl in the original ballet?

Image of Catherine Hurlin in @giselle. Photo by Craig Foster.

Expect powerful and technically impressive performances by the ensemble, which includes Catherine Hurlin as Giselle, Harrison James as Albrecht, and Sterling Baca as Hilarian.

Tickets are $35-$99 (plus applicable taxes). There is a Jean Orr Tribute Performance & Celebration September 5, 2019, with limited VIP tickets (includes top tier seating, meet-and-greets with cast members, a tribute presentation, and refreshments) for $199 (plus applicable taxes). Jean Orr was Canada’s first Giselle, and is celebrating her 90th birthday.

As well, illuminating pre-show talks are scheduled:

Joshua Beamish and Jean Orr, Co-Founder of Ballet BC (September 5, 2019, 6:30pm to 7pm, Vancouver Playhouse Upper Lobby): Joshua Beamish will chat with Orr about her illustrious ballet career on the eve of her 90th birthday.

Joshua Beamish and Peter Boal, Artistic Director of Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet (September 6, 2019, 6:30pm to 7pm, Vancouver Playhouse Upper Lobby): Boal will join Beamish in a conversation about the research process involved in their respective recent stagings of Giselle. Boal drew upon primary sources from 1842-1903, while both Beamish and Boal consulted with a historian Marian Smith for her knowledge on the ballet.

Joshua Beamish and Chan Hon Goh, Artistic Director of Goh Ballet (September 7, 2019, 6:30pm to 7pm, Vancouver Playhouse Upper Lobby): Goh performed the title role of Giselle numerous times until 2009. She will chat with Beamish about the nature of the role and its exhilarations and challenges.

Further info and tickets can be found on-line.

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