Ballet Stars

#TBT: Carla Fracci in “Giselle” (1969)

Carla Fracci in "Giselle," via YouTube.

In the late 1950s and 60s, Italian ballerina Carla Fracci won the world over with her definitive interpretations of romantic ballets like La Sylphide, La Sonnambula, and, of course, Giselle. At just 22 years old, she left her home stage at La Scala in Milan to begin guesting internationally, eventually forming a famous partnership with the dashing danseur Erik Bruhn at American Ballet Theatre. The two appear together in this film of ABT's Giselle, in which Fracci's Act I variation is as near to perfection as any Giselle before or after.


Aside from the video's faded colors, this performance hardly looks like it was filmed 50 years ago. Fracci's aesthetic is distinctly modern, with her long lines and quick turns. She abandoned the softer, wilted look that had previously defined the Romantic idiom, conveying Giselle's gentleness through delicate but dynamic movement. The phrase at 0:32 captures the essence of her style: She steps onto pointe and beats her foot with the utmost care, but then flips her back into a joyous renversé. Her attitude pirouettes are elevated and brilliant, but then she stops her turns on a dime to float into fondu. As she hops across the stage on pointe, Fracci keeps her port de bra low and simple, indicating Giselle's natural humility. She also makes the challenging sequence seem like a stroll through the park.

In a 1981 New York Times article Fracci discussed her artistic approach: "When on the stage, I somehow discover a new facet of the character I'm dancing and I try very hard to express it to the audience." This conviction is clearly the source of the ballerina's beaming smile as she pirouettes with startling speed during variation's the final diagonal. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

The Conversation
Ballet Stars
Réjean Brandt Photography, Courtesy Royal Winnipeg Ballet

After growing up in Florida, how did you adjust to the climate when you moved to Winnipeg, Canada?

It was shocking. The winter is brutal! Now I know what to expect, but it's still a bit of a shock. I think the first day of snow was September 26th.

Do you have a go-to anecdote about company life?

Once we were on tour in Arkansas for Nutcracker. We got to the finale, and the music cut out. There was a womp-womp moment, the curtain came down, and we had to restart from the top of the coda. But the audience was excited they saw it twice—they felt like they got double their money!

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Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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