She is a peasant girl with a weak heart who is deceived by a nobleman pretending to be a commoner who is already betrothed to another woman.
Once his secret is revealed, she dies of a broken heart, but is called from her grave by a group of supernatural women called the Wilis, who seek vengeance upon men who have betrayed their female lovers by forcing them to dance until they die.
Principal dancer Connor Walsh will dance the lead role of Duke Albrecht, the betrayer who takes advantage of Giselle's inexperience and youth, in Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch's new choreography of the classic ballet Giselle.
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"It's such a beautiful ballet. It has a very important part in ballet history. Many great dancers have performed the role," says Walsh. "It begins with such innocence and playfulness, and ends with tragedy filled with physical challenges and exhaustion."
It's in the second act, involving the dance to the death, that Walsh gets to give his all. “It's probably one of the most physically challenging male classical ballet roles,” Walsh says. “You push yourself to the absolute maximum. You are dancing for redemption. He's betrayed Giselle and broken her heart.”
This is not the first Giselle for Walsh, who will dance the role at night on June 9, 17 and 18, but it is one of the most special since Welch based his new choreography on Walsh himself and that of his partner, Principal dancer Yuriko Kajiya.
Performances are scheduled for June 9-19 at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturdays and Sunday; 2 p.m. on Sundays and 1:30 p.m. Saturday June 18 at the Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information, visit houstonballet.org or call 713-227-2787. $20-$168.