Pointe Blank is an initiative created by the Birmingham Royal Ballet and I was thrilled to be one of twenty five illustrators involved in this project. The project is described as follows:
Collections of original images inspired by the plots of major narrative works in the repertory of Birmingham Royal Ballet, and created by professional designers in and around the UK.
Each time, the invited participants are not required to depict the story as a ballet, only to incorporate the Company name or logo. Visual references are made available, but in an attempt to keep the brief as non-prescriptive as possible, the designers are not required to include them.
So for this, the fourth project in the Pointe Blank series, members of Illustrators Ireland were commissioned to create an A3 sized poster based on the story of the ballet Giselle.
In a village deep in the mountains, a young woman, Giselle, and a young man, Loys, are deeply in love. However, Loys has not been completely truthful with his beloved.
While Giselle believes him to be a simple villager like herself, he is in fact a nobleman called Count Albrecht, and is already betrothed to a Lady named Bathilde.
Wishing to escape the responsibilities of his life as the son of the local Duke, he has been visiting the village under a false identity, but has now fallen so in love with Giselle he is afraid to reveal who he is, for fear of losing her.
Another young man from the village, called Hilarion, is also in love with Giselle. He discovers that Loys is not who he claims to be, and exposes his secret, in an attempt to drive away his love rival.
However the heartbreak, and the sight of Bathilde arriving to claim her fiancé, is too much for Giselle to bear, and driven mad by despair, she takes her own life.
After her funeral, Hilarion keeps a vigil by Giselle’s graveside. But the graveyard is haunted by a group of Wilis – the vengeful ghosts of jilted brides – who rise up and pursue Hilarion. They force him to dance until he collapses and dies from exhaustion.
Albrecht arrives to leave flowers, and the Wilis appear again. They attempt to make him dance to his death like Hilarion.
At this point, Giselle’s ghost also rises from the grave, and she entreats Myrtha, the merciless Queen of the Wilis, to spare her lover’s life. Myrtha refuses, but Giselle dances with Albrecht, and the power of her love for him gives him the strength to make it through until sunrise, when the spell loses its power.
I love the idea of the village in the mountains and had been watching the movie Van Helsing a few nights before I saw the brief and some of the imagery in that film influenced the sketches I did of the town nestling in the mountains. My take on it was probably a little lighter and family friendly. I pretty much locked onto the idea of Giselle dancing in the graveyard with Albrecht. Here’s an early sketch.
Initially I was imagining them dancing a slow dance in the graveyard and then I started to think about them doing some 1970s style disco dancing. The song “Do the Hustle” was stuck in my mind and that’s the tune I pictured them dancing to stay alive to. Hence the disco glitterball moon and the fancy dance steps ; ) I thoroughly enjoyed this project and I’m happy with my two main characters – the ghostly Giselle and the disco-ing Duke Albrecht. Here’s my final piece which appeared in the show.
You can see all of the 26 pieces of wonderful artwork included in this year’s Pointe Blank show here. Thank you very much to the Birmingham Royal Ballet for the wonderful opportunity!