Contact: David W. Booth / Cora Vasseur, NIU School of Theatre and Dance
April 16, 2007
DeKalb — Choreographer and dancer Martha Graham said in her 1992 autobiography, “Bloody Memory,” that “Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.” Dancers from NIU’s School of Theatre and Dance use the language of ballet in order to tell the story of Giselle from April 26 through April 29 in the Stevens Building O’Connell Theatre on the DeKalb campus.
Giselle is a young peasant girl who falls in love with Loys. Unbeknownst to her, Loys is actually Prince Albrecht in disguise, who is betrothed to another woman. Hilarion, who loves Giselle, discovers Loys’ true identity and tells Giselle. Distraught and her heart broken by the news, Giselle is killed when she falls on Albrecht’s sword.
When the Wilis, ghosts of young women who were betrayed by love, attempt to lure Albrecht deep into the forest to atone for his betrayal, Giselle emerges from the grave to save Prince Albrecht from a dance to the death.
“Giselle has a very recognizable storyline, which isn’t always apparent in ballets,” says dance senior Genna Sears, who performs as Giselle’s friend and in the Corps de Wilis. “Ordinary people can catch on to what is going on instead of just the dancers knowing and the audience guessing.”
One of the reasons that the unspoken language of this romantic ballet succeeds is that the dancers call upon their acting skills to make their characters more complete. While mastering the ballet’s challenging choreography, all dancers, from Giselle to the villagers, were required by director and coordinator of the comprehensive dance program at the school, Randall Newsom, to have a developed character and a “back story” that is demonstrated in their personalized movements and reactions to what is happening on stage.
“I know that the miming section is very difficult for everyone,” says junior dance major Joseph Schuman, who plays Hilarion. “[Newsom] was very specific about what he wanted us to do, but he left a lot of the work up to us to decide how we wanted to do it.”
Acting provides a personal challenge for junior dance performance major James Stevko, who plays Albrecht. “I’ve only been dancing for two years, I’ve never been given the chance to dance a dramatic role … the part of Albrecht relies very much on acting, in both acts.”
Stevko said the biggest challenge he still must face is the demanding choreography, ranging from quick pointe work (dancing on tiptoe) to performing moves that are simply not done in ballet any more. He says one dance move he must perform nearly kills him.
“In the second act, the Wilis force Albrecht to dance to the death, so as you can imagine, I do an awful lot of dancing.” The dance is not easy; Stevko executes 32 “entrechat sixes,” a technique where he jumps up in the air and beats his legs three times before landing.
“Nobody does them anymore, because they are so hard,” he says.
Giselle runs Thursday, April 26, through Sunday, April 29, in O’Connell Theatre, in the Stevens Building. There is no children’s matinee for this production and children younger than 5 will not be allowed in the theatre. Show times are 7:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $14 for adults, $8 for seniors and $7 for students. For more information and reservations, call the Stevens Building box office at (815) 753-1600.
# # #