Ballerina Elena Lobsanova on the Enduring Power of Giselle

Giselle is often referred to as the Hamlet of ballet, and Russian-born principal dancer Elena Lobsanova is inclined to agree. “I think it’s true,” she says. “Giselle’s journey is about truth just as Hamlet’s is—both are about the discernment of people’s actions and their consequences and the uncovering of deception.” However, Lobsanova points out, there is one key difference: rather than seeking revenge like Shakespeare’s tragic hero, Giselle’s actions are a testament to the power of forgiveness and mercy.


The story follows the doomed love of Giselle, a young peasant girl, and Albrecht, a disguised nobleman. After realizing his deceit, Giselle dies from grief and madness in a complex and intensely emotional scene—Lobsanova’s favourite scene in the ballet, she tells me. Giselle rises again in a spooky world of spirits, and shows Albrecht complete mercy and eternal protection. “Giselle is an incredibly pure character with sincere intentions,” explains Lobsanova. “Their love, no matter how tainted, was pure once, and for that she carries a responsibility over his soul and ultimately stops at nothing to save him.”

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While Lobsanova has danced leading roles such as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Alice in Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland, and Ophelia in Hamlet, she is excited to be dancing the role of Giselle for the first time in the National Ballet of Canada‘s staging of it this season. “Giselle is a dream role,” says Lobsanova, who has been with the National Ballet of Canada since 2004. “I love the characters of any classic heroine.”

Giselle has remained one of the most beloved of ballets since it first premiered in Paris in 1841, and has been in the National Ballet of Canada’s repertoire for nearly 50 years. And the everlasting appeal of the iconic ballet is at once recognizable: while successfully transporting viewers to a past era, the timeless story of love, tragedy, and forgiveness is relatable for an audience of any time or place.

The National Ballet of Canada’s Giselle opens June 15 and is on view until June 19, 2016. Click here for tickets and more information. 

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Photos of Elena Lobsanova with Artists of the Ballet in Giselle by Aleksandar Antonijevic, courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada.

Feature image of Elena Lobsanova by Sian Richards, courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada.