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Not ‘Yer Conventional Ballet’: New Take on Giselle

Fest 08: Giselle
Date EMARGOED UNTIL 01 November 2007

Not ‘Yer Conventional Ballet’ – a New Take on Giselle

Things are seldom what they seem. Attraction, deceit and betrayal with a mix of Slovak folk dancing, line-dancing, and contemporary partnering feature in Irish choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan’s version of Giselle at the 2008 NZ International Arts Festival.

A dark humoured modern tale of duplicity, delight and disaster, the Olivier Award nominated Giselle is set in the fictional Irish town of Ballyfeeny, peopled by phony line dancers, cowboys and ghosts.

“The ecstasy of the ending marks out Keegan-Dolan [Fabulous Beast Company] as a bit of a genius … such talent is unmistakable: we call them choreographers because no other word describes their magic” The Observer

The five performances of Giselle between 8 – 12 March 2008, are sponsored by Go Wellington.

Théophile Gautier’s tragic story - usually featuring classic white ballet dresses – tells of a prince and a peasant girl, deception, broken hearts and the underworld. With Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre’s production this fairytale is turned upside down into a dance theatre approach. Featuring an all-male cast bar the heroine, it is old Europe meets American cowboy in a sexy, genre-bending (and gender-bending) explosion of breathtaking sights and sound and movement.

“There is still a prince," Michael Keegan-Dolan protests. "OK, so he's not a prince. He's really a Slovakian bisexual line-dancing teacher."

Giselle is still a poor, innocent villager, a virtual orphan, whose bleak existence is exacerbated by living with her half-brother Hilarion. Mentally handicapped and emotionally inarticulate, violence is his only expression, even when communicating his love for and devotion to his sister. Giselle finds a beacon of hope and love in the handsome Albrecht who reciprocates her affection. However, once Giselle learns that her lover is bisexual and unfaithful, her chance for happiness is deflated.

This story of incest, betrayal, blood, sweat and dirt is narrated by Giselle’s father, seated atop a telegraph pole, and strewn with humorous observations as the tragic tale unfolds.

Michael Keegan-Dolan, the creative force behind Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, is one of Ireland’s most talented and innovative choreographers. He has made his name by mercilessly modernising old stories while keeping true to their universal themes.

“There’s a visceral understanding - almost acceptance - of violence in the society I grew up in. There has also been a lot of abuse in Ireland, not only physically but emotionally. The Catholic Church has been such a strong presence that people lacked faith in their own judgment. You had people who followed their priest’s or their doctor’s judgment, and who became victims of abuse. I think I have a bit of a thing about establishment. Power definitely has the potential to corrupt.”

Composer Philip Feeney’s electronic music score complements the action sometimes evoking, as The Guardian said, “the minimalist style of Philip Glass”.

Heroic and inspired, this is dance theatre at its most radical, contemporary and accessible.

Five performances supported by Go Wellington from 8-12 March at 8pm, Shed 6, Waterfront.

Join Michael Keegan-Dolan and company members at an Art Talk at the Pacific Blue Festival Club at 1.1pm on Monday 10 March.

Praise for Giselle - Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre
“Giselle is one of the most inventive shows I’ve seen in the last ten years.” Robert Lepage

“There was an unmistakable sense that something exciting is cooking in that particular cauldron and that it just might feed the emergence of a theatre adequate to the strange place Ireland is now.” The Irish Times

“This Giselle is a high-water mark for the Irish performing arts.”
Karen Fricker – Variety

“The closing image - Giselle bouncing joyfully on a mattress as the chorus climb towards heaven - is impossibly beautiful … but everything else about the work is brazenly and triumphantly new.” The Guardian

“Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Giselle is exhilarating and a marvelous testament to the potential of dance theatre.” Sunday Tribune

“Fabulous Beast has taken off from the premise of the seminal piece like a rocket– a dirty, sexy, brutal, fantastic rocket … a triumph!” WOW

“All these combine to create a work of narrative originality and technical achievement that challenges and extends the definitions of all the words with which it is necessary to describe it: “Irish”, “dance” and “theatre.” The Guardian

“The ending is a knockout, one aching strain of Adam’s tender music providing a heartbreaking reminder that Giselle’s tragedy is for all time.”
Debra Craine – The Times

This production was originally produced by Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre and Dublin Theatre Festival.



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