Dance Preview: GISELLE (The United Ukrainian Ballet at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa)

Post image for Dance Preview: GISELLE (The United Ukrainian Ballet at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa)

by Tony Frankel on June 21, 2023

in Dance,Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center, which has presented world premieres by Alexei Ratmansky for more than a decade — including American Ballet Theatre’s Of Love and Rage (2022), Whipped Cream (2017), The Sleeping Beauty (2015), and Firebird (2012) — once again proves itself as one of the country’s most exciting dance centers by presenting Ratmansky’s all-new full-length production of Giselle, appearing June 29 – July 2, 2023Both classic ballet and romantic fantasy, Adolphe Adam’s 1841 masterwork is for a rightly renewed reason a worthy offering by The United Ukrainian Ballet, making its West Coast debut. Coming to Segerstrom Hall after gala appearances in Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center and the London Coliseum, this two-and-a-half hour treasure was created specifically for the company by Ratmansky, who himself is a Ukrainian citizen. Pacific Symphony, under conductor Gavriel Heine, will perform Adam’s gorgeous melodies live. Find tickets at SCFTA.

Elizaveta Gogidze as Giselle and Oleksii Kniazkov as Albrecht
Act 1, United Ukrainian Ballet's Giselle (©Altin Kaftira)

Theophile Gautier’s story, inspired by Heinrich Heine’s poems about unrequited love, lauds the posthumous devotion of Giselle, a sweet but deceived village girl who loses her mind and life when she abruptly discovers that her lover “Loys” is in effect the Count Albrecht, affianced to the daughter of the Prince of Courland and, as such, way out of her league.

Elizaveta Gogidze as Giselle and Oleksii Kniazkov as Albrecht
Act 1, United Ukrainian Ballet's Giselle (©Altin Kaftira)

Due to Giselle’s false love, the gamekeeper Hilarion exposes Loys’ identity. In the second act his treachery is punished, both poetically and in fact. Where the first act is a potpourri of classical artistry — a peasant pas de deux, faux folk dances by the grape harvesters, and novelty numbers like the girls’ sweet sextet — the second act waxes unashamedly rhapsodic: The Wilis (or Willis), ghost girls who never knew love (or, specifically, marriage) before they died, capture men and make them dance to their deaths. But Giselle courageously intercedes for the now deeply repentant Albrecht: Death gives her the true look of love that life never allowed.

The Willis and Elizaveta Gogidze as Myrtha
Act 2, Giselle, United Ukrainian Ballet Giselle (©Mark Senior)

The United Ukrainian Ballet, under the artistic direction of Igone de Jongh, formed after Ukrainian dancers fled their homeland following the Russian invasion. United by the tragedy of war and an ardent hope for the future, the 60-member company — professional artists in exile from the national theaters of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, and others — is based in The Hague at the former Royal Conservatoire building, where they live and work through the generous support of local business and the government. The company aims to preserve Ukrainian ballet culture, give meaningful employment to dancers until the war is won, and to keep public support for Ukraine strong through a personal, emotional experience.

Alexei Ratmansky in rehearsals for Giselle (©Altin Kaftira)

These performances will be the first time Ratmansky’s Giselle is presented in collaboration with Liev Schreiber and his non-profit organization, BlueCheck Ukraine. Thanks to the underwriting support of Elizabeth Segerstrom and the Henry T. and Elizabeth Segerstrom Foundation, proceeds from ticket sales will benefit BlueCheck which was created to vet, verify, and fund Ukrainian-led local and grassroots frontline organizations providing lifesaving humanitarian aid to victims of the Russian invasion.

Act 2, Giselle, United Ukrainian Ballet (©Altin Kaftira)

“I am deeply grateful to Elizabeth Segerstrom for making these performances of the United Ukrainian Ballet’s Giselle possible,” said Alexei Ratmansky. “My wife Tatiana and I have felt greatly privileged to be able to work with this group of refugees based in The Hague. Creating Giselle, with its themes of love and betrayal, death and redemption, offered all of us some catharsis. The Company’s performances have taken them around the world, including to Amsterdam, London, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, and Washington.  But their achievement is far greater than the performances on stage. Audiences have found a personal connection with the war that TV images cannot create. After many years of featuring my work at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, I am excited to start a new chapter of collaboration with this historic production and cast.”

Elizaveta Gogidze as Giselle and Oleksii Kniazkov as Albrecht
Act 2, United Ukrainian Ballet (©Altin Kaftira)

Liev Schreiber, co-founder of BlueCheck Ukraine, said, “We are incredibly grateful to Elizabeth Segerstrom for this partnership with the United Ukrainian Ballet. Thanks to her generosity, this performance of Giselle will generate funds to support organizations providing on-the-ground assistance in Ukraine where it is needed most.”

Elizaveta Gogidze as Giselle and Oleksii Kniazkov as Albrecht
Act 1, United Ukrainian Ballet (©Altin Kaftira)

Principal casting includes:
Christine Shevchenko and Alexis Tutunnique
Elizaveta Gogidze
and Oleksii Kniazkov
Iryna Zhalovska and Denys Nedak

Elizaveta Gogidze as Giselle and Oleksii Kniazkov as Albrecht
Act 1, United Ukrainian Ballet (©Altin Kaftira)

About BlueCheck Ukraine

Founded in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, BlueCheck Charitable Foundation (BlueCheck) is a group of experts committed to providing direct funding to local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and grassroots organizations on the ground. Backed by more than 30 years of combined experience in humanitarian aid and expertise across various industries, BlueCheck has created an end-to-end solution for identifying, vetting, verifying and fast-tracking funds to local NGOs. BlueCheck has funded more than 20 local Ukrainian and diaspora organizations delivering food and medicine, building shelters, distributing cash assistance, removing unexploded ordinance and landmines, evacuating people trapped in besieged areas, and caring for widows, elderly and children with special needs.  Powered by the due diligence services of Ropes and Gray and Integrity Risk International (IRI), its model takes the burden off local NGOs, so they can put their time and resources into what matters most – providing aid to saving lives and ease suffering of people caught up in wars and other man-made and natural disasters.

Leave a Comment