Myrtha Unveiled

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Elana Altman as Myrtha in Tomasson's Giselle ©Erik Tomasson


The role of Myrtha in Giselle is one of the most challenging and demanding roles that I have ever performed. Myrtha is the Queen of the Wilis (girls who have died of broken hearts). To attain Queen status, I wonder if Myrtha’s heart was broken the worst, or if she was the first, or if she was a Queen in her former life, or perhaps she was elected the Queen!

There are many interpretations of her story, as well as of her role in Act 2 of Giselle. I believe she is angry at her fate of having to roam the woods every night as a zombie. Her ingrained evil shines through in her delight of killing men. She shows wrath mixed with jealously when Albrecht’s devotion to Giselle brings him to the forest, and ultimately their love is stronger than her power and she cannot separate them. Myrtha’s display of bitter hatred is also a cover-up for her own broken heart.

Along with all of the character building, Myrtha is extremely demanding physically. Her power is conveyed in a solo full of jumping, so every movement must be strong. I really enjoyed coming back to this role this season. Since I have performed Myrtha in years past, this season provided a new perspective. I don’t have to think about the steps as much; there are the technical aspects that my body remembers after a few rehearsals. This year, I’m focused on blending the character deeper into the movement. Myrtha lives somewhere in me from those years past; I relish the opportunity to dig her out and in doing so, lose myself more fully within her. Every port-de-bras is how Myrtha does it, not Elana being Myrtha. It is only after the curtain comes down that I become myself again, and it feels like I’ve been on a long journey!

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3 Comments

  1. avatar Michael Vickery
    Posted February 3, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    I saw Elena Altman dance the role of Myrtha on opening night, and she was fabulous – commanding, charismatic and beautiful.

  2. avatar Elana Kline
    Posted February 3, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    This looks amazing! I hope to go see it, though I live 3 hours away. Myrtha seems like a character with so much depth and beauty, something I would love to see, because I haven’t seen Giselle. As a dancer myself it’s so interesting to see such an amazing dancer as you, with the same name!

  3. avatar Janet
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    I saw Elanna as Myrtha Feb 2, and she was outstanding!

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