Akram Khan's refugee Giselle: 'A real woman in a catastrophic situation'

He had never worked on a classical ballet, and had seen Giselle just once. But the choreographer jumped at the chance to drag the story into the 21st century – with the help of English National Ballet

“Seeing Giselle as a member of the audience is a very different thing from seeing it as a choreographer – and knowing that, fucking hell, you’re going to have to be dealing with it yourself.”

That was the sobering thought that struck Akram Khan, whose new version of the ballet has just opened in Manchester. Before he embarked on the project for English National Ballet, he explains, he had only ever seen one performance of Giselle, and that was as a curious outsider. Originally choreographed in 1842 by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli, the ballet comes straight from the heart of European Romanticism. Its plot is a narrative world away from Khan’s Bangladeshi heritage: the story of a young peasant heroine who is deceived by her aristocratic lover, Albrecht, but continues to adore him from beyond the grave.

If I danced in it I’d have to be a minor character – sort of limping and messy

It would have been a waste of time to make a work for ENB that my own dancers could have done better

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Source: Guardian Dance News

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