Home All Akram Khan’s Giselle: beautifully distressing

Akram Khan’s Giselle: beautifully distressing

written by Emma 28th October 2016

Stepping away from tutus and beautifully precise make-up
that is so iconic of classical ballet, choreographer Khan and designer Tim Yip
create a modernist production of Giselle that can only be described as
beautifully distressing.


Giselle tells the story of a young peasant woman and her
lover. After discovering that he is betrothed to another, she dies of a broken
heart and enters a supernatural world surrounded by spirits. The spirits
attempt to kill her lover, but Giselle’s love is so strong she manages to free

Yip creates a bleak environment with only a concrete wall as
the set, and costumes consist of drab neutral dresses and simple polo shirts for
the ‘peasants’, while Khan’s choreography is erratic, frantic and at times, terrifying.

At first, the relationship between Giselle (Fernanda
Oliveira) and Albrecht (Fernado Bufalá) is reminiscent of a fairytale: their movement
is juvenile, tantalising, and the epitome of young love.


However, that soon changes when Giselle discovers that a
noblewoman has taken a liking for Albrecht.  Giselle’s heartbreak is almost too distressing
to watch: Oliveira’s limbs flail around in such a tormented fashion, it makes
the audience feel uneasy. Her wrists bend backwards, her hair is loose and
dishevelled and occasionally she twitches so violently, it’s as if she might
explode with heart ache. Inarguably moving to anyone who’s experienced
heartbreak, Oliveria is uncomfortable to watch as she enters what can only be
described as a whirlwind of self-destruction, finally collapsing on stage as she’s
consumed by death.


Anyone who’s suffered heartbreak will sympathise with Akram’s
Khan’s reimagined interpretation of Giselle. Never in my life have I seen a
production that’s both so beautiful and so painful to watch. Every element
comes together to create something so spectacular, so simple, and so moving –
it almost brought me to tears. It’s no surprise that nearly all the
performances are sold out, this astounding production of Giselle is not to be

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