Principal Dancer Dayesi Torriente has spent the past month preparing to dance both of Giselle’s leading female roles – Giselle, the innocent peasant girl with a weak heart, and Myrta, Queen of the Wilis. We were lucky enough to snag a few minutes of her time to find out what it takes to take on both of these technically and artistically difficult roles…and what we found out is beyond interesting!
Q. Have you performed either of these roles before?
A. Yes! I have danced Myrta many times; the last time was in 2013. Giselle I’ve never had the opportunity to do before, though, so this is going to be my premiere.
Q. Which role do you identify with most?
A. I cannot not say which role I identify with the most, because both of them are incredibly interesting to interpret and satisfying to dance. Maybe I can say that I feel more “comfortable” with Myrta. Since I have performed it many times, I know what it feels like to dance and rehearse it. With Giselle, every day is something new, and preparing for a new role is always different than when you revisit a role you’ve performed before…discovering new sensations and finding the way you feel “comfortable” doing it.
Q. Both roles have their challenges. Can you tell us about preparing for each?
A. Both roles are a challenge for me. Many times, I have had to rehearse them one after the other on the same day. Artistically, Giselle is complicated. I have to prepare myself for each Act. For Act I, I work on movements that highlight the innocence of the young, sick peasant, in addition to the “Mad Scene”, which comes towards the end of the Act. To connect with the “Mad Scene”, I have read a lot about schizophrenia, hallucinations, and delusion of persecution in an effort to understand what a person feels when all of these emotions collide. Fortunately, I have never suffered from anything like this, so I’ve tried to find resources that give me the knowledge to feel the pain and despair that Giselle faces at that moment. On another note, I also always try to wear leotards with lighter colors during rehearsals for Giselle, as I think it helps create the innocence her character carries. I also wear different point shoes for Acts I and II, as in the first I need shoes with newer tips so that they are stronger, and for the second I prefer softer shoes that are well molded to my feet.
For Myrta, I just try to concentrate on all the strength that the character has. At the beginning of Act II, she is very safe and calm, but then the music grows more intense, leading you to stronger, more powerful dancing and acting that feels good. I love dancing with the corps of Wilis too, because they help you feel the power that the character requires. It is fun to perform, and very difficult too.
Q. What is a typical day like for you?
A. A normal day for me is very simple. I have my ballet class, and then depending on the day, I can have rehearsals Giselle, Myrta, or both…and then I try to relax afterwards with a massage. A ballet like Giselle requires a lot of training and strength (the choreography consists of a lot of jumps and controlled movements), so I do my best to keep my muscles healthy and ready for the following day’s rehearsals.
Q. How many pointe shoes do you go through each week?
A. I normally use 1 or 2 point shoes every two weeks. Each ballerina has her own favorite (and often custom) pointe shoes, and my go to are Gaynor Minden’s Shank Green Bag (hard), size 8.5 M4HLH.
Q. When you perform Myrta, will Arian (your fiancé) be your Albrecht? Will that be strange for you…as Myrta commands him to “dance until he dies”?
A. Well, it could be strange if I, Dayesi, told Arian to dance until he dies…but when we are performing, it will not be me, it will be Myrta who tells Albrecht to die. Since we will both be so invested in our characters, I don’t think it will feel strange at all — he and I will simply maximize what the characters require.