“Giselle, Act 1”: Stage + Studio by Annie Honebrink

One of the beautiful aspects of Giselle is the ability for every person to find a way to relate to the story.  The characters are incredibly human.  Each viewer should be able to find some aspect of his or her own story in Giselle, Albrecht, Myrtha, or any of the characters in this ballet.  Within each character are countless approaches one could take in considering the role—as a dancer or an audience member.  We should all walk away from this ballet having learned something about human nature—whether it be our own or that of those around us.

Here is one path down which Giselle has taken me.


Giselle is pure.  Innocent.  Generous.  She is bursting with life.  And love.  She flits across the stage, feet barely touching the ground.  Soaring with love’s wings.  So high nothing can touch her.  Playing games and leaping with joy. 


Albrecht is older.  Wiser, stronger—he thinks.  I like to believe he truly does love Giselle—in his own blurred, disordered way.  I think maybe he feels the pure joy pulsing from her heart, and he aches to be a part of it.  I think he is enamored with her energy and the exuberance she has for life.  I think his love is much younger than his years of life claim.  It is a careless love.  Selfish.  Foolish.  He understands he is not happy with his life of royalty and his betrothed.  He understands that with Giselle, a village girl, his spirit is full and free.  But he doesn’t understand that tender, bright hearts break the deepest.  He doesn’t understand that choices have consequences—and sometimes those consequences affect others.  He doesn’t understand that Truth can’t be swayed.     


The betrayal sets in.  The hope drains out.  Funny how fickle those words, I love you.  Funny how short that vision, forever.  Giselle moves in a fog, dazed by deceit, floundering in disillusionment.  She recalls those moments of love.  The games played, dances danced, songs sung.  The flower petals picked one. by. one.  He loves me.  He loves me not.  He loves me.  He loves me not.

He loves me not.

She remembers dropping the flower and the quick kisses that followed to quell her fears.  To assure.  Convince.  She tears at her hair because it doesn’t line up and cannot be reconciled and the agony is too great to bear. 

She sees that which no one else can—the willies fluttering in the distance.  Beckoning her to come.  Away. 

 She drags the sword, the pointed tip calling her forth.  Because the pain is unbearable.  Because her heart was so pure—so young—so full.  No layers of years, no protection of experience, no jaded edges or cynical cracks.  Too generous, too selfless.  She gave it all.

The sword is pulled away, but her heart crumbles just the same.  Broken mind, crushed soul.  She runs into the arms of her lover.  The one who swore his love.  The one to whom she gave her heart.  The one she trusted.

She dies in the arms of her lover.  The one who betrayed.  Deceived.  The one who broke her heart.


Albrecht holds his dead love in his arms.  But the arms feel foreign—like someone else has inhabited his limbs.  Reality seeps into his stomach.  The reality that we all stand accountable for our actions.  The reality that you can’t return a heart.  Because when you do, it comes back broken.    


Tender, bright hearts may break the deepest,
but they also heal the strongest.