Character dance is not specifically a single dance style, but more of a type of performance. True to its name, character dances are when a dance is performed with a story and named characters that the dancers play. Some of the more famous character dances are the ballets Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, and the Nutcracker. When it comes to character dances, each one has techniques specific to that dance, due to the theme, dance type, and sometimes choreographer.
Out of the character dances I mentioned, I figured Giselle would be a good choice to elaborate on because, while it is well-known in the ballet world, it might not be as well-known to others. I also feel that Giselle is one of the most interesting ballets because of its darker, other worldly themes. Giselle is about two hours, and consist of two acts.
This ballet is about a young girl named Giselle who has a heart condition, but a strong love for dance. She falls in love with a Loys, a peasant boy, who, little does Giselle know, is actually Albrecht, the Duke of Silesia. Hilarion, a jealous love rival wants to expose Albrecht’s true identity to Giselle in order to break Giselle and Loys apart. After Giselle’s mother chides her for dancing too much, the Duke of Courland and his daughter Bathilde appear after a hunt. Giselle and Bathilde become fast friends. While that is happening, Hilarion works to prove Loys’ deception by finding a sword with the Duke’s crest on it. Later, when everyone is dancing, Hilarion uses the sword to expose Loys’ identity. At the same time, Giselle finds out that Loys is also Bathilde’s fiancée. Overwhelmed by pain and sadness, Giselle commits suicide.
Do not worry, my friends, this is not the end!
Giselle then becomes a ghost of sorts, and joins Myrtha and her group of young girls in their dark endeavor. This endeavor leads to Hilarion’s death, as the girls make him dance until he dies. The girls then turn on Loys. Giselle begs to save Loys, but to no avail. Giselle and Loys dance until Loys is nearly dead, however, he is saved just in time by the morning sunlight. Giselle retreats to the afterlife, and Loys mourns the loss of his one and only love.
I know, I know, it is a very dark and sad story. Although, it is a breathtakingly beautiful ballet. Here is an excerpt of Giselle and Loys performing their dance:
If you are interested in seeing this wonderful ballet, it is still a popular choice for big dance company performances so it often shows many times throughout the year. Occasionally, it will even show at large performing arts centers such as the Straz center. If you are even slightly interested, go check it out! I would recommend this ballet to anyone.