Ballet dancers performing Giselle
Credit: Photo by media4artists, Theo Kossenas

Legend has it a certain French poet fell in love with Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi after seeing her perform. Determined to create a ballet for her, he enlisted a librettist and the composer Adolphe Adam to help. Completed in two months, Giselle premiered in Paris in 1841, starring Grisi in the title role. The story follows Giselle, a peasant girl who falls in love with a handsome stranger. But the stranger is actually the royal Count Albrecht in disguise, who is already betrothed to another woman. When Giselle discovers his duplicity, she loses her mind—famously closing the first act. In the second, she awakens as a ghost and must decide whether to join the vengeful spirits of girls who died before their wedding day or to stay true to her love. For a dancer, Giselle is considered as complex a role as Hamlet: shape-shifting, tragic, loyal, mad. The Washington Ballet will present its own interpretation with choreography after Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli this spring—a fresh take on one of the great canon ballets. April 28 to May 1 at Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW. $44–$146.

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