When Ballet BC artistic director Emily Molnar first approached resident choreographer José Navas about creating a new production of Giselle, she expected him to say it was a crazy idea.
After all, Ballet BC is a decidedly contemporary company, and Mr. Navas is a decidedly contemporary choreographer.
So what business would they have doing one of ballet's biggest classics?
"He said, 'Emily, it's so funny you ask, because I have been wanting to do Giselle for years – but my company isn't the place to do it,'" Ms. Molnar recounts. "And I said, 'Well then, we have to make it happen.'"
But while Mr. Navas's creation stays true to the spirit of the work, it is anything but a traditional rendering of the iconic ballet about an ill-fated love triangle.
In it, the modern-day Albrecht is actually involved with another man when he falls for Giselle. When Giselle dies, it's not from a weak heart, but from suicide. And when Albrecht returns to find her in the afterlife, it's about him trying to heal from her death.
Still, Mr. Navas did not abandon the original in this production, which also incorporates animation, modern costumes and a stage within a stage. The score remains the same, which roots the work, and he embedded choreographic and stylistic homages to the historic version that ballet aficionados know and love.
"The elements of love, loss and the unknown are universal and they'll never die. We can all see ourselves in Giselle, whether we're a man or a woman, whether we're older or younger," Ms. Molnar says. "It's true to our humanity, so that's why it's always going to be a relevant piece."
The premiere of Ballet BC's Giselle is at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Thursday through Saturday.