Gothic Beauty With the Grand Kyiv Ballet

The company’s cross-country tour of Giselle concludes at four Pacific Northwest stages. Two performances remain (in Arlington and Tacoma), through May 3.  


I could do without the first act of Giselle. There’s a lot of prancing, the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and the opposing sides — complete with tossing swords around in this version — are like the age-old loaded gun on stage: don’t bring it unless you’re gonna use it. The epic choreographed duel, seemingly promised, never does come to pass. 

The second act, however, changes realms entirely, morphing to a gothic forest studded with gravestones and full of ghosts. This is where it really comes alive; ironically, in death. 

Grand Kyiv Ballet principal dancers Oleksandr Stoianov and Kateryna Kukhar in ‘Giselle’. Photo by Ksenia Orlova.

It’s the second act, too, that reminds just how difficult this dance is to pull off. The “Wilis” (ghosts) take over, crossing the full stage on nothing more than vibrating pointe, relentless and precise in their non-stop stutter steps. Impressive on their own, they’re a lovely contrast with the lead dancers: Giselle’s sweeping flourishes (on a mean pointe herself), her love interest’s grand gestures and big leaps, the interfering woodsman like a pogo stick with springing leaps and axel jumps. 

A ballet with much of the action in death sounds dark, but against this backdrop they radiate light. 

It’s a fitting performance for a resilient group and its leading duo, principal dancers Kateryna Kukhar and Oleksandr Stoianov, forced to flee Ukraine with their family during the war. Based now in the Seattle area, they’re closing out their first U.S. cross-country tour, a whirlwind of performance dates, and lighting up the stages here with four local performances. You can see them still in Arlington (tonight) and Tacoma (tomorrow).

The sold-out Edmonds Performing Arts Center crowd’s enthusiastic reception signaled they got what they came for at the April 30 performance. Here’s hoping the dancers felt that same light reflected back.


‘Giselle’ choreography by Marius Petipa, Jules Perrot, Jean Coralli; music by Adolf Adan; libretto by Théophile Gautier, Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges, and Jean Coralli, based on the legend of Heinrich Heine.  

The Grand Kyiv Ballet’s Giselle (touring) performs on 5/2 at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center in Arlington, and on 5/3 at Pantages Theater in Tacoma. Tickets here

Run time: 1 hour 55 minutes, with intermission. 

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of