Giselle: The Movie

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It’s a little piece of history, the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s first appearance on DVD. And it’s not just New Zealanders who will be curious to see this small, proud company in a performance the timeless classic, Giselle.

Staged by Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel, and starring ABT ballerina Gillian Murphy alongside the RNZB’s impressive Qi Huan, this performance of Giselle has been beautifully filmed and edited for screen. But this is isn’t any old Giselle – this is Giselle: The Movie. Ah, yes, it wasn’t enough for film director Toa Fraser to simply capture the RNZB for posterity. This is Giselle with “an offstage romance – interwoven with the ballet – that tells of two itinerant dancers, separated by time, distance and their abiding love for each other [sic].”

So what does that mean? Well, for many dance fans it means putting the champagne on ice. This ‘ballet movie’ is essentially a conventional performance tricksied up by the addition of atmospheric shots of dancers emoting heavy duty je t’adore in front of New York and Shanghai skylines. The DVD cover will tell you it’s about restoring “psychological directness to the relationships.” We will tell you it’s a blasphemy to abruptly cut from the stage to the rehearsal studio for the famous Act II pas de deux. Nor did we need to see the Queen of the Wilis filmed from behind facing a empty auditorium, when there’s plainly a very appreciative New Zealand audience audibly at the performance.

Still, if you can get beyond the tarty-arty add-ons, there is essentially a well-danced, traditional production of Giselle to be enjoyed here. Kobborg and Stiefel have tailored their staging to comfortably fit the RNZB’s smaller troupe of dancers, though not all their tinkerings in Act I inspire admiration. This is a Giselle best savoured by those who simply want to focus on great dancing without asking too many questions. Sadly, we couldn’t help asking, ‘Why is Albrecht brandishing a sword when his family are dressed for the age of pistol and shotgun?’

Region Code: 4 (Australia, New Zealand, South America and Oceania)
Format & Aspect Ratio: PAL, 16:9
Number of discs: 1
Run time: 105  minutes + bonus items
Studio: Rialto
Release date: 2013