Varna Ballet - Giselle

Varna International Ballet – Giselle at New Theatre Oxford review

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The start of 2023 has been brilliant theatre wise, first seeing Sleeping Beauty, and more recently getting chance to see Varna International Ballet and Orchestra on their first tour to the UK, thanks to Raymond Gubbay. We watched their performance of Giselle at the New Theatre Oxford, and really enjoyed seeing a ballet I’d not watched since I was a child.

Varna International Ballet Company

The Varna international Ballet company isn’t one I’d heard of before. They’re a company of 40 dancers and 30 musicians, having been founded in Bulgaria 75 years ago alongside the Varna State Opera.

Alongside European and Ukranian dancers, there are also 3 British dancers performing in the tour, so it really is an International company.

The tour is moving around the UK from January through to March so you still have time to book and see them perform in 4 classic traditional ballets: Giselle, Coppelia, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

The Varna International Ballet soloists during rehearsals
Press image of rehearsal

The performance

We saw Giselle which is a combination of more character ballet in the first Act. Act 1 tells the love and tragedy of Giselle’s relationship with aristocratic but cheating Albrecht, behind the rural picture of the villagers gathering and celebrating harvest. 

Act 2 is the beautiful but haunting moonlit forest scene where the spirits of young betrayed brides who died before their wedding day become the Wilis who ensnare men in the forest between midnight and dawn making them dance til they die. This is the classic Romantic Ballet style from the 1840s. Albrecht is saved by Giselle dancing with him until sunrise, saving him despite his tricking her when he was already betrothed. The Wilis retreat, including Giselle, back to their graves.

Varna Ballet - Giselle

It was lovely to see and hear a proper orchestra. So many ballets no longer have a live orchestra. It makes me wish I still played my instruments, and takes me back to my many years of playing in orchestras.

The lead ballerina playing Giselle was a wonderful dancer. She had great height in her jumps, and she played the part of Giselle so well. Her 2nd act coming back from the grave she was head and shoulders above the rest. Really ethereal. The Queen of the Wilis played her part consistently throughout as well.

The corps de ballets represented the Wilis in their ghostly white romantic tutus, and I was pleased to see the famous choreography they do across the stage in their formation.

We really enjoyed seeing Varna International Ballet’s Giselle and they got a long round of applause at the end. For me, I did feel that they’re not quite in the same league as the UK’s major ballet companies. 

Read more about the ballet Giselle and book at Raymond Gubbay.

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If you want to see one of the famous classic stories of the ballet world, then see if they’re visiting your local theatre.

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