When I was a student with Miami City Ballet School, I got the opportunity to dance in Giselle with the company. Now, six years later we are revisiting this classic masterpiece and bringing this dramatic love story to South Florida. As a Corps de Ballet member with Miami City Ballet, I have always wondered what it would be like to dance the title role of Giselle. So I decided to ask my fellow colleague and Miami City Ballet principal dancer, Jennifer Kronenberg, about her experiences dancing this iconic ballet.
RK: How many runs of Giselle have you danced in throughout your career? What parts have you danced?
JK: This will be my fourth run of Giselle with Miami City Ballet. My husband Carlos and I also danced Giselle with The Peoria Ballet a few years back. Each time I have danced the ballet I portrayed the lead role of Giselle. This season I am again dancing Giselle, but I am also learning “Myrtha - Queen of the Wilis” and “Berthe”, Giselle’s mother.
RK: How did you feel the first time you performed the title role of Giselle?
JK: It was exhilarating! I was extremely excited, but very nervous at the same time during the whole rehearsal period. I even went all the way to Paris to get extra coaching from some of the Etoiles of The Paris Opera Ballet who had been known for their own portrayals of the role. At that point I’d never danced the lead a full length ballet other than in The Nutcracker and I felt a little bit overwhelmed. Since I wasn’t dancing on opening night, I sat in the audience to watch. Seeing the ballet from the audience’s perspective inspired me so much that all of my inhibitions truly subsided. I had an overwhelming desire to get out on the stage the following night and feel what it was like to perform the ballet for myself. I suddenly found myself having a new confidence and I think that first performance signaled a turning point in my career - from that day forward I began seeing myself as a true ballerina, and I think the public did too.
RK: What makes the role of Giselle special to you?
JK: It will always be special because it was really my first principal role in a full length story ballet. The role of Giselle encompasses, for me, all that the art of ballet itself is about. It is pure classicism, the root of all that we do. Working on the details of classics like Giselle have made me appreciate and understand all the more the specifics of the other styles that we perform more often - Balanchine, Robbins, Tharp. Of all story ballets, Giselle offers the most wonderful combination of emotion (love, joy, betrayal, jealousy, death), strong technical dancing, sylph-like delicacy. I also find that it is choreographed to one of the most beautiful scores ever written (Adolph Adam). Dancing it with my husband Carlos has also been a dream come true and makes everything seem so real.
RK: At the end of Act I, Giselle discovers that her fiancé has betrayed her, launching her into a whirlwind of emotions, known as the “mad scene.” I remember the first time I saw you perform this. The faces you made and the risks you took were so incredible. Your character’s fiancé and your real-life husband looked on, with tears streaming down his face. What do you think about during this moment to make your performance so believable?
JK: I try to really take myself to a frightening place. I truly become Giselle and let go as if it were really happening to me. I can’t imagine anything worse than giving yourself over to love with a pure and vulnerable heart only to realize that it was all a big charade; the ultimate betrayal. If the very person that you love with all your being turns out to not at all be who you thought they were, I imagine one could easily lose touch with reality. Every truth that Giselle believed in, lived for, minutes earlier is suddenly no longer of consequence. Her world is shattered instantaneously and she reverts quickly to a very dark, almost infantile and hysterical place. For her there is no reality anymore. The world that she knew and loved has been destroyed and all dreams of a happy ending have been stolen. When I dance with my husband, I look at him and imagine that it is he who has done such a horrid thing to me. It is awful and scary to imagine, but it really helps me get real emotions flowing. I think he goes to the same place in his mind, which is probably why he sometimes cries while standing on the side!
RK: This ballet is a classic, seen and performed all around the world. To you, what element of this ballet makes it timeless and beloved?
JK: Ultimately, I really believe it is the perfect combination of the beautiful story of love, betrayal and then forgiveness set to gorgeous music and the “white” second act that keep people coming to see it time and time again. The audience can easily identify with it on so many different levels. It is pure entertainment - they don’t have to analyze or think very hard, they just have to sit back, be human and feel - which can be very refreshing sometimes in this crazy and hectic world we live in.