Meet our Giselles: Alexsandra Meijer

Photo by Chris Hardy of Alexsandra Meijer as Giselle

Photo by Chris Hardy of Alexsandra Meijer as Giselle

Three dancers are cast to dance the title role in Silicon Valley Ballet's upcoming production of Alicia Alonso's Giselle. We caught up with Principal Dancer Alexsandra Meijer, and asked her about taking on one of ballet's most challenging and beloved roles. This will be Alexsandra's second time dancing Giselle.

"As a child I was taught that for a female dancer to earn the title of "Ballerina," she must have performed the roles of Odette/Odile and Giselle, as well as a third virtuosa role along the lines of Juliet, Swanilda or Aurora," relates Alexsandra. "Thus dancing Giselle for the first time was a monumental milestone in my career. In my previous attempt at the role of Giselle, Dennis Nahat encouraged me to study Carla Fracci and I certainly tried to embody many of the attributes that made her portrayal iconic and world famous today. However, I am looking forward to trying to embody Alicia Alonzo's ideals in this role. It is interested to see how the two differ in character, style, choreography and musicality."

When asked what the most challenging aspect of dancing Giselle will be, Alexsandra replied, "beyond the soul crushing, monumental obstacle that lies in hopping on pointe, I am anticipating the most challenging aspect of dancing Giselle this time will be doing a different version. I have already researched the role and solidified her character in my own mind. Beyond pouring over videos of great dancers like Carla Fracci, I also studied famous Hollywood scenes from movies such as "Apocalypse Now." I finally drew much of my inspiration for Giselle's mad scene from Vivien Leigh in "A Streetcar Named Desire." Thus, taking on someone else's vision will require a different approach with a different style, different choreography, a different story, and fundamentally a different character. This will most likely require me to delete my previous preconceptions and I will have to completely reprogram my thinking and dancing. This may prove to be a great challenge as the other dancers will approach this role with an open mind. I initially made my premiere of Giselle with Tiit Helimets, Principal Dancer of San Francisco Ballet, which was a truly extraordinary experience and cemented a lasting friendship. I am just so thankful to have the opportunity to bring this role to the stage and to once again be able to work with such amazingly talented artists. Obviously I hope that my added experience brings new depths to my character and dancing."

On working on Alicia Alonso's staging of Giselle, Alexsandra states "I am truly looking forward to having the opportunity to work with such amazing artists throughout this process. Obviously it is an enormous treasure to have José Manuel Carreño's experience and knowledge on a daily basis, but for this production we have the benefit of input from his great friend Loipa Araujo. It is incredible to hear her thoughts on a role that she is not only famous for performing, but also a role that was passed down personally from Alicia to herself and now to us. I am also very much looking forward to the opportunity to dance and learn from a new partner, Yoel Carreño. And it is always a great pleasure to share the studio and stage with Raymond Rodriguez, who is cast to perform as the Duke."

We can't wait to see Alexsandra Meijer and the company bring this wonderful production, and the role of Giselle, to life!