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On Saturday I went to see the Australian Ballet perform Giselle. As I’ve mentioned before here, I go to the ballet four or five times a year as my mum and I and a couple of her friends subscribe. I love the art of classical ballet but sometimes, my writer brain takes issue with the plot. Either I get annoyed when the story stops so everyone can have their multiple solos (even while appreciating the dancing I want some story, dammit) or I get annoyed with the actual plot.



Now Giselle, is one of the latter ones. One with a kind of dumb plot. It falls into a category of ballets that can be summarised as dead girls in white tutus. It’s very beautiful and has some amazing dancing (and was danced beautifully on Saturday) but the plot was written in 1841. And it was written, like a lot of ballets, by a man. Apparently back then women dying was very romantic (operas have a similar problem). Hence lots of gorgeous dancing in long tutus but lots of women dying as well.

These days, part of me gets a bit huffy with fridging the girls so the prince/duke/hunky male can have emo man pain (as much as I appreciate a tortured hero in tights, I’d rather he was tortured for reasons other than the woman he treated badly dying). I do better with happy ballets (hey, I’m a romance writer, I want my happy ending). So when we watch the sad ones I quite often end up re-doing the story in my head.

The story of Giselle (and forgive me but it’s been around for 180 years so not so much spoilers) is that Giselle is a happy peasant gal, who loves to dance but isn’t supposed to as she has a weak heart. A hunky Duke comes to town and decides to woo her (she also has a jealous hunter suitor lurking around), presumably because hey, she’s cute and looks good in a tutu. What he conveniently forgets to tell her is that he’s already engaged. When Giselle finds out (thanks to the jealous hunter suitor spilling the beans because he’s a jealous suitor), she loses it and basically dances herself to death and is buried in a forest. A forest inhabited by the Wilis who are vengeful spirits of women jilted by their lovers at the altar who take revenge on the men who do such things by making them dance themselves to death (go Wilis!).

Giselle’s spirit is summoned to join the Wilis (who need a cooler gang name). The Wilis dance the jealous hunter suitor to death (fair enough, he’s a jerk and Giselle doesn’t like him even before he spills the beans on Dukey, so yay Team Wili). When the now full of man pain Duke comes to visit Giselle’s grave (midnight grave visiting being a Thing, it seems), the Wilis try to do their thing again but Giselle intervenes and saves Dukey by dancing some of the time. Between them, they dance until dawn comes and the Wilis have to go. The Duke survives to go emo elsewhere. And I for one, can never quite believe that she saves him. I mean, he was cheating on her, let the Wilis have him (did I mention Team Wili? The Wili Queen is no one to mess with.). But apparently happy peasant girls with weak hearts also have no backbone and she still thinks he’s dreamy even though she’s now dead in a forest (unless she’s uber happy that she gets to be Team Wili but that doesn’t seem to be the gist of it. Nope, she’s just saving Dukey McDreamy Tights who rocks his black velvet and silver ensemble because he’s him). In romance terms, she’s teetering perilously close to being a TSTL heroine.

What would make far more sense is if when it’s revealed the Duke is engaged, he and jealous hunter boy fight and manage to kill each other and when Giselle goes to the forest to put flowers on their graves because she’s nice that way (seriously, who goes to the forest to a graveyard at midnight anyway), and the vengeful boy equivalent of the Wilis try to get her, the spirit of the Duke saves her. Because he, quite rightly, feels badly about the way he treated her. Gender swapped ballet plots with happier endings. Might be my new thing. Someone get on that.

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