Giselle ballet dance
Shadrach Brown of King City (as Prince Albrecht) dances with Chloe Arriaga of Soledad (as Giselle). (Miguel Serrano Photography)

KING CITY — Be a part of history as the German ballet “Giselle” is performed in Monterey County for the first time this weekend by Monterey County Dance Theatre’s student company.

Under the artistic direction of Janette Harkness, the young dancers stemming from South Monterey County will bring this famous ballet story to the Robert Stanton Theater stage in King City beginning Friday night.

“Working with students and adults seeking to become the best they can be through dance and the arts is my life’s work,” said Harkness, who directed and choreographed “Giselle.” “Taking on challenges and going beyond mediocrity is important. The student company of Monterey County Dance Theatre is an example of just that. The dance classes are but one aspect of their education. The other is the enrichment it provides for not only them but for our communities.”

Not everyone can travel to San Francisco to watch a ballet like “Giselle,” Harkness noted.

“But, we can provide a platform for them to perform it here,” she added. “No, not at the professional dancer level, but at a level that is the best they can produce.”

As always, the student company will perform entirely without professional dancers. “Giselle,” produced by Monterey County Dance Foundation Inc., features a cast of 65 local dancers and artists.

The title role will be danced by Chloe Arriaga of Soledad, who graduates this year and will be attending Ballet Arizona’s pre-professional program this summer in Arizona. Arriaga is the village girl Giselle who falls for Prince Albrecht (played by Shadrach Brown of King City) after he disguises himself as a commoner in the German village.

“Death, deceit, betrayal and the power of love drives this ballet along with our human frailties,” Harkness said.

Giselle ballet dance
Chloe Arriaga of Soledad (playing Giselle) dances as a Wili. (Ginnie Guidotti)

The second act is all about the Wilis, ghostlike women who have died because of the betrayal of their love. The phrase, “It gives me the willies,” actually comes from this ballet and German folklore, noted Harkness.

“It is hauntingly spooky as the romantic white ballet dresses and apparitions appear,” she said.

The Wilis are led by Myrtha the Queen of the Wilis (played by Sheccid Salas of Soledad) and danced by the student company’s corps de ballet.

“The Wilis are creatures who are guided by their dark cold queen Myrtha and rise from their graves between dusk and dawn,” Harkness explained. “Their goal is to dance any man to his death if he enters their forest realm.”

Giselle ballet dance
Sheccid Salas of Soledad dances as Myrtha in “Giselle.” (Miguel Serrano Photography)

Last month the Dance Foundation hosted its annual Toast to Dance to help raise funds for the “Giselle” production and scholarships. The March 23 event took place at Casey’s Redtail Ranch in King City and featured Delicato Family Wines. Select dance vignettes from “Giselle” were also performed.

“No dancer pays to participate in the productions put on by Monterey County Dance Foundation,” according to Teri Storelli, past president of the Dance Foundation. “We believe that cost should never be an issue that keep someone from taking center stage. Everyone who attended contributed to making ‘Giselle’ happen.”

“Giselle” will be performed at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 12, and Saturday, April 13, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, April 14. Tickets are available online at Eventbrite, Farmers Insurance in King City and from Dance Foundation members. Box office opens one hour before curtain at King City High School’s historic Robert Stanton Theater, located on North Mildred Avenue.

Harkness noted that this ballet is not suitable for young children, and no “babes in arms” will be allowed.

Giselle ballet dance
Various “Giselle” cast members perform during Monterey County Dance Foundation’s Toast to Dance fundraiser March 23 at Casey’s Redtail Ranch. (Ginnie Guidotti)
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Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.


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