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ART BEAT: Gwinnett Ballet Theatre presents romantic ballet 'Giselle'

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Special Photo Kendall Greene performs the role of Giselle in Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's "Giselle" at the 7:30 p.m. show Saturday.

One of the most popular works from the classical ballet repertoire will be presented by Gwinnett Ballet Theatre on Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. in the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center. "Giselle," the story of a young peasant girl who falls in love with a young nobleman in disguise, offers audiences and performers a rich experience in the beauty and depth that classical ballet has to offer.

The ballet was first performed in 1841 in Paris, but it is the Russian revivals from the late 19th century with choreography by Marius Petipa that are most familiar to contemporary audiences.

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre's "Giselle" has been especially choreographed for GBT by Artistic Director Wade Walthall. This version follows the traditional format but has been streamlined and updated to make it accessible to modern audiences. Much of the more complicated mime sequences have been shortened and simplified, and the storyline follows an evident rationale, with a little humor thrown in for good measure.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors with $11 tickets per person for groups of 10 or more. Tickets can be purchased at the Gwinnett Center Box Office or at any Ticketmaster location.

Three GBT dancers will perform the lead roles of Giselle and Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, a band of unhappy spirits of young women. Abigrace Diprima of Lawrenceville and Kendall Greene, also of Lawrenceville, will perform the role of Giselle. Diprima will perform at 2:30 p.m. and Greene at 7:30 p.m. Bianca Melidor will perform the role of Myrtha at both performances.

The ballet begins in a small village where young Giselle meets and engages in a flirtatious relationship with Albrecht, who though dressed as a peasant is actually one of the nobility. From this first meeting a deep and enduring love develops, much to the chagrin of Hilarion, another young suitor for Giselle's affections. When a hunting party of nobility, which includes Albrecht's fiancee, arrive at the village, Hilarion reveals Albrecht's true identity. The fragile Giselle, overcome by betrayal and grief, dies, much to the horror of Albrecht who finally realizes where his heart truly lies.

The second act is one of the most famous in all of ballet. Set in a graveyard, the evil Queen of the Wilis, Myrtha, appears and summons her spirits. The Wili are the ghosts of young girls who have died of broken hearts before their wedding day. These spirits capture men walking along the road beside the cemetery at night and force them to dance until they die.

Soon Albrecht arrives with an arm full of lilies for Giselle's grave. Although he cannot see her, Albrecht can sense Giselle's presence. Myrtha appears and demands he dance to his death, but Giselle's love supports and sustains him until the sun rises, saving his life.

For more information, contact Gwinnett Ballet Theatre at 770-237-0046 or visit www.gwinnettballet.org.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.