Ballet meets Burlesque in the House of Verlaine. The metaphor, “dance until death” has acquired a metaphorical tutu. Lily Verlaine is at it again with a risqué and creative retelling of the classic ballet, “Giselle.” Hedonism, isolation and vengeance reign when The Wilis, the ghost of scorned women, wields its power on behalf of scorned women everywhere. Courtesy of Verlaine’s vivid imagination, “Giselle’s” young lovers are now trapped in a haunted bed and breakfast, and manipulated into an eerie end.
Tutus may be scant in Lily-land, but provocative nudity is not. Eroticism and daring earmark this production. Verlaine brings a burlesque aesthetic to classical dance, and her roster of dancers represent some of the most highly-regarded dance companies of Seattle.
Verlaine has always been curious about how people will respond to her creative work. Her choreography presents a lot of gender and sexual fluidity—men and women often wear the same costumes and dance alongside each other. Though typical in the burlesque realm, it’s usually part of a tease with some kind of wink to the audience. Critics find Verlaine’s work refreshing, in that she incorporates it without an ounce of irony or apology. “To me it’s natural,” she once said in an interview, “they’re all dancers of the same caliber.”
“Giselle Revisited” resets the classic ballet in a haunted house, designed by Gregory Award-winner, Julia Welch. Verlaine’s version of the ballet features a roster of professional dancers, including Lara Seefeldt and Davione Gordon, among others.
In Verlaine’s reimagined, romantic ballet, “Giselle,” Gordon and Seefeldt portray two madly-in-love sweethearts who stumble into an old house and start dusting creaky old furniture. Little do they know, the house is haunted by Wilis, a group of scorned, supernatural women clad in white slip dresses and smudged leotards who dance men to death. The lovers dance, eat, and make love, all the while surrounded by the women of Wilis, invisible to the couple, but not to the audience.
In the love-making scene, the couple reaches to each other repeatedly, but the Wilis, sitting between and covering the couple’s heads with their clothes, are actually the ones satisfying the pair. After seeing an orgy-like sight in the set’s bathtub, the man dies, presumably of a broken heart as did Giselle’s character in the original ballet. Her spirit joins the Wilis’ clan, ready to plague the next, unsuspecting couple who dare enter.
The video preview features the 1937 song, “Nice Work if You Can Get It” which was written by George Gershwin, with lyrics by his brother, Ira Gershwin. This could easily define Verlaine’s love of her risqué and clever reconstruction of the classics.
You will also have an opportunity to preview Ms. Verlaine’s newest and upcoming work, a retelling of “Romeo & Juliet,” another story of doomed lovers. Audience members will be invited to share a champagne toast at intermission to celebrate The House of Verlaine’s latest artistic creation.
“Giselle” will be performed August 31 at 7:30pm and September 1st, 7pm & 10pm, at The Triple Door; Tickets range $35-$50, and are available at The Triple Door’s Box Office and online here.