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BWR reimagines ‘Giselle’ for company’s spring ballet

Emily Dew, left, is Act II Giselle and Isabella Loccisano is Myrtha in Ballet Western Reserve's production of "Giselle." (Submitted photo / Elaine Manusakis)

YOUNGSTOWN — Two Giselles. No males.

Ballet Western Reserve will take a nontraditional approach to a classical ballet when it stages “Giselle” on Saturday at Youngstown’s Powers Auditorium.

Artistic Director Cate Greyjoy said she chose the 180-year-old ballet choreographed to the music of Adolphe Adam for several reasons.

“It’s a very traditional ballet in that it has two very clear acts that are quite contrasting,” she said. “The first is full of joy and promise with a very dramatic conclusion before a dark, more foreboding second act.

“There’s lots of story and personality for the dancers to explore and the audience to enjoy. It is a classic ballet.”

BWR also has three graduating seniors in the preprofessional company — Emily Dew, Isabella Loccisano and Kellsie Shadowens — and she wanted a ballet that had enough lead roles to showcase each of their talents.

But there were some challenges as well. “Giselle” is a tragic love story about a peasant girl who falls in love with a deceitful nobleman. She dies of a broken heart, and the second act features the spirits of women who suffered similar fates. They get their revenge by dancing philandering men to death.

But like many dance schools, BWR doesn’t have any boys.

“We sat down and discussed what shape do we want our story to take? It can’t be a story of romantic love based on our student population. What does this look like as a tale of betrayal between friends?”

Greyjoy reconfigured the dances and pas de deuxs so they would fit the music and provide proper training.

The older dancers will be on pointe and and using one body to accentuate the line of the other, Greyjoy said, “Without forcing either dancer into black-and-white, masculine-feminine roles.”

She also decided to double-cast the title role.

“I knew after the experience with ‘Sleeping Beauty’ last year that I needed to share the workload of the lead character,” she said.

She found her first act Giselle while substitute teaching in a modern dance class, where Eileen Beck was a student.

“I saw that student in a different light and knew she had to be Giselle in Act I. I wanted to see the student losing her mind on stage and wanted that challenge for her.”

Dew will dance the role of Giselle in Act II. and Dew and Beck play supporting character in the acts where they’re not playing Giselle, so each one gets to experience the other dancer’s approach to the character up close.

Shadowens will dance the peasant pas de deux and Loccisano will dance the role of Myrtha.

“We’ve turned it on its head,” Greyjoy said. “There’s still conflict, there’s still an act of dishonesty and betrayal that reveals the true identity of a newcomer, a new friend among old friends. And Act II still centers on scenes of atonement and forgiveness.”

agray@tribtoday.com

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