Christine Rocas and Dylan Gutierrez rehearse for "Giselle" at The Joffrey Tower in Chicago.

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

For Ashley Wheater, having "Giselle" begin The Joffrey Ballet's new season is absolutely perfect.

"It's exciting to bring 'Giselle' back," said Wheater, who is marking his 10th anniversary as artistic director of The Joffrey Ballet. The romantic ballet was the first production he worked on when he became artistic director of the company.

This rendition of "Giselle" is the Chicago premiere of choreographer Lola de Avila's adaptation of the ballet.

"Lola and I have worked together for a long time," Wheater said, adding it's an honor to bring de Avila's vision to the Chicago stage.

"What's wonderful about Lola is she brings so much attention to detail (to the work)," he said. "With that attention to detail, you get a different kind of texture" to the production.

De Avila said it was also a wonderful opportunity to work with The Joffrey's dancers.

"I love working with the company," she said, adding that it's a young troupe. They work hard and are very energetic, she said.

With her adaptation of 'Giselle," de Avila said she just tries to "get to the heart of the story."

"And I want to make sure the dancers understand every movement," the choreographer said.

"Giselle" is considered one of the most romantic of the classical ballets. It's set in the Middle Ages and revolves around themes of passion, love, betrayal and deception.

Wheater said the themes are eternal and the ballet is still relevant these days.

"It worked in 1840 and it's still working today," Wheater said. He added when he was 11 years old, he performed as a page in "Giselle" during a Covent Garden production in London.

"This is a ballet that should be part of any company's repertoire," Wheater said, about "Giselle."

"For this new generation of dancers to understand why this work is important (is key)," he said.


Eloise writes about food and entertainment for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight children in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.