The Tutu Project

The Tutu Project

Legacy

Wilis

Wilis from Giselle - First Performed April 16, 1970. Designed by Desmond Heeley. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.

As dancers typically get their start as Wilis in the Corps de Ballet, this tutu has been worn by many dancers with the National Ballet, even those who have gone on to become Principal Dancers. Two celebrated artists who have had the lengthiest careers in the history of the National Ballet are Lorna Geddes, who joined the company in 1959 and remains with the company today as Principal Character Artist, and Victoria Bertram, who joined the company in 1963 and danced for 47 years with the company, concluding her career as Principal Character Artist in 2010.

The National Ballet of Canada’s production of Giselle was choreographed by Sir Peter Wright and features designs by Desmond Heeley. Heeley is one of the most sought-after international stage designers, having designed for many major opera, theatre and ballet companies. The décor and costumes for the National Ballet’s production of Giselle exemplifies the intensely atmospheric settings that Heeley is known for. For many, Giselle is the quintessential Romantic ballet and while the title role has been called the ballerina’s Hamlet, the Corps members play an important role in the ballet, most notably in Act II. Following Giselle’s tragic demise she joins the Wilis, spirits of betrothed young women who after being betrayed by their lovers, die from grief. They wear disintegrating Victorian style wedding gowns trimmed with dying roses which have been soiled from years of haunting their woodland home.

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Top image credit: The National Ballet of Canada tutus on display. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.