My first Giselle

For all you Giselle fans out there, here’s some special material from my archives. My Cape Town souvenir ballet books and first childhood autograph book.

The very first Giselle experience was in Cape Town in 1988. It was an extra special performance to pay homage to prima ballerina Phyllis Spira as part of the ballet company’s 25th anniversary. Spira was an exquisite dancer, who was able to excel in comedy roles as much as she did in the dramatic, narrative classics. 

Giselle ballet book and autograph book collage, open at photo of ballerina in penché and Phyllis Spira autograph

I took a class with her once when I was very little (little enough that the regulation leotard colour was pink not black). I can remember which ballet studio we were in but most of the memories of the class are hazy. That’s probably not just age but also total awe. I think that might’ve been when I asked her for her autograph (my ultra dinky autograph book is in the photo above with the ballet company souvenir open at an image of Spira in Giselle – photo credit danseur Keith Mackintosh).

At that Giselle performance, two surprises were in store for those of us in the audience.

Firstly, Spira had an on-stage injury in act 1. Ballerina, Nicolette Loxton was called from the audience to come on stage, without make-up, for a flawless transition into the title role, including a compelling mad scene. The photograph below is from an earlier production (photo credit my former colleague, Montgomery Cooper).

Giselle ballet book and autograph book collage, open at photo of ballerina in arabesque behind kneeling danseur and Nicolette Loxton autograph

I took a class with Loxton when I was a bit older. She was a wonderful teacher. But I think I asked her for her autograph well before that, backstage when I was a Nutcracker extra. 

Secondly, in the post-performance tribute the rare title of Prima Ballerina Assoluta was conferred upon Spira. That’s the highest honour in the ballet world. 

What a memorable evening. As a Romantic ballet, Giselle is already emotionally-charged. Add the events of the night to that ,,, quite something. So you can imagine my delight when I last attended a Giselle performance at Covent Garden and saw a tutu first worn by Spira on display. But that’s another story.

Have a peak at my Giselle-inspired collection. And if you’re not already subscribed, join my email list to make the most of my special subscriber offer and be first in line for new additions.

Back to blog

1 comment

Lovely tribute to two wonderful dancers and teachers, JL, and an unforgettable performance of Giselle.

I loved the evening classes I had with Nicolette and John Simons but sadly, never had a class with Phyllis Spira. Her teacher, Reina Burman, did fail me in my Elementary exam. I was devastated.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.