JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Renowned dancer John Selya, left, teaches a class of dancers at Ballet Hawaii in the Dole Business Plaza.
Ballet trio relishes ‘Giselle’ challenge
Last presented in Honolulu five years ago by Ballet Hawaii, the romantic classic "Giselle" makes its return to the island stage, featuring a couple of principal dancers from the New York City Ballet and another noted dancer from the Big Apple familiar to audiences here.
'Giselle' Presented by Ballet Hawaii
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Time: 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $25 to $75
Call: 591-2211 or visit ticketmaster.com
John Selya has performed with Ballet Hawaii over the last couple of years, in the lead role of "Coppelia" and last year's annual Christmas production of "Nutcracker."
The Tony and Drama Desk-nominated dancer, who is also a member of the American Ballet Theatre and Twyla Tharp Dance, has been teaching the company's summer intensive program at its studio in the Dole Cannery complex. But this weekend, he'll be on stage as Hilarion, the love-struck gamekeeper smitten by the titular village girl who, in turn, is in love with Albrecht, a nobleman disguised as a peasant.
"I'm always a busy man," said Selya, "but fate always allows me to have a break. I'm lucky that I'm able to choose the jobs I'd like to do, and I'm lucky Ballet Hawaii wanted me to do a part I've always wanted."
Despite the consistent popularity of "Giselle" through the decades -- it debuted in 1841 at the Paris Opera -- it's not the kind of ballet that is commonly staged in such a big, sophisticated city as New York. But dancing as the characters of Giselle, Albrecht or Hilarion have always been considered plum roles for any dancer wanting to build up his or her resume.
"It's a tour de force for the principals," said former Atlanta Ballet artistic director Robert Barnett, who is staging the classic for Ballet Hawaii. "They are demanding roles. The young lady who is the principal with the New York City Ballet (Tiler Peck), since 'Giselle' is not a usual ballet that they do, she more than likely jumped at the chance to do it here." (Joaquin De Luz, also a returning guest, rounds out the trio of lead dancers as Albrecht.)
Selya describes Hilarion as "the man's man. He's the blue-collar character, which there are not many in classical ballet. The whole ballet is a statement on class, I think -- how it interferes with the genuine and uncomplicated love a small-town fellow has for this girl because of the complexity and deceit of Duke Albrecht. It's kind of tragic -- she doesn't want him although he's been madly in love with her since they've been growing up, and ultimately he's rejected and does his last dance of death, with movements that are literally sucking the life out of him.
"I'm looking forward to showing the labor and difficulty of dancing through this role," he said. "Everything in dance is difficult. There's very little easy about it. In this role, I don't have to put up the illusion of effortlessness."
Barnett said the set and costumes for "Giselle" are courtesy of Inland Pacific Ballet of Montclair, Calif.
"I did this the first time back in 1962 back in Atlanta. 'Giselle' is one of those ballets that are always done all over the world. Everyone knows how the steps and the staging goes. I'm just passing it on. The freshness of each production depends on the individuals and what they bring to it, since the choreography is set."
In his work with his students during the summer intensive -- some of whom will be part of the chorus in "Giselle" -- Selya said that "my impression is that they're very sensitive and listen very closely. They're able to progress in a short amount of time, sometimes in a matter of minutes."