United Ukrainian Ballet: Giselle at the London Coliseum
The London Coliseum is hosting a special production of Giselle for a few nights only. Performed by the newly established United Ukrainian Ballet and staged by choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, this rendition of the classic ballet is one of many initiatives supporting the people of Ukraine as conflict continues to shake the country. The 50 dancers participating, who are currently in exile and based in the Netherlands, are accompanied by the English National Opera orchestra as they retell the story of the beloved ballet classic.
The main soloists will rotate as the protagonists over the course of the run. On press night, the role of Giselle was played by Christine Shevchenko, principal at the American Ballet Theatre. Shevchenko’s Giselle is vivacious and has a more extroverted attitude than ballet regulars would usually associate with this character. She is nonetheless graceful in her movements and particularly strong in the key scenes, where emotions are high and lives are at stake. Her suitor, Albrecht was interpreted on the night by Oleksii Tiutiunnyk, whose tall stature and elegance give him a regal stage presence.
There is a clear contrast between the warm colours of the first act, when villagers dance outside Giselle’s home during harvest season, and the blue-tinged magical forest of the second act, where the Wilis spirits live. The sets and costumes, on loan from the Birmingham Royal Ballet, add considerably to the overall impact of the production and make it extra pleasurable to watch.
Beyond the balletic performance, which is delightful in many ways, the opening night was particularly moving due to the general atmosphere at the Coliseum. Before the start, the English National Opera chorus sang the recently updated national anthem, God Save the King – which still sounds strange to the ear – just as the late Queen’s coffin made its way to the nearby Mall. Then, following the show, the Ukrainian national anthem was played and the dancers on stage sang it passionately as they carried the Ukrainian flag. This is certainly a unique production of Giselle, and all ticket profits are going to charities supporting Ukraine.
Photos: Altin Kaftira
United Ukrainian Ballet: Giselle is at the London Coliseum from 15th September until 17th September 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: