Conor Gnam approaches lifting a partner — a male ballet dancer's career-long job — with an eye to artistry. But also an eye...

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Conor Gnam approaches lifting a partner — a male ballet dancer’s career-long job — with an eye to artistry. But also an eye to protecting the back and shoulders.

It’s the hardest part of being a partner — the big lifts.

“There’s a definite technique,” Gnam says. “As long as you stay within the boundaries of that technique, it’s a lot simpler.”

You put one hand on her hip, one hand on her inner thigh, and from there, lift from a bent-knee or plié position.

“I try and stretch the arms before I stretch the legs, and then I bring the feet together,” he says. “As long as you stack all of your bones and stack everything on top of each other, there’s not a lot of strain.”

It helps that he’s lifting a ballet virtuoso: Marianne Bauer. The two are from Ballet British Columbia, a Vancouver-based contemporary, neoclassical ballet company.

They star as the leads in “Giselle,” presented by Olympic Ballet on Saturday at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. Olympic Ballet is Snohomish County’s premier ballet company, and this revival of a longtime favorite is dedicated to John Wilkins, the late co-founder of Olympic Ballet with his wife, Helen.

Helen Wilkins calls the ballet he so loved staging “timeless,” and adds, “John’s grand vision and artistic gifts that produced these gorgeous sets and costumes are inspirational.” Beverley Bagg is guest stager.

The 1841 ballet is one of the most popular in dance repertoire, spanning both the ordinary world and the supernatural in its two acts.

Giselle is a peasant girl from a small village in Silesia (in Central Europe) who is seduced by a nobleman dressed as a peasant.

Because Duke Albrecht is already promised to a noblewoman, this tangled triangle is exposed when Giselle arrives in the village of the noblewoman. The weak-hearted Giselle dies, and in Act Two, Duke Albrecht comes to mourn at her grave site.

The ghostly Giselle forgives him, and protects him from the Queen of the “Wilis,” apparitions of women who were jilted by their lovers and died of heartbreak.

“Every man that’s broken a woman’s heart is normally forced to dance until he dies,” says Bauer. “So Giselle protects him at her grave.”

The title role is both lyrical and technically demanding, says Bauer.

“It’s just such a pure and simple story, and everyone can relate to it,” Bauer says. “Just the music as well is exquisite, and the way it changes from the human world to the ethereal or spirit world.”

Gnam calls his co-star “incredibly talented, with flawless technique.”

“Giselle,” he says, is not only “a huge stamina ballet” but is also replete with acting moments for his role as Albrecht.

“It’s almost like there’s two characters; he’s one person in the first act where he’s youthful and I think doesn’t really know what he’s doing,” Gnam says. “He’s never seen the consequences of his actions.

“In the second act, he grows up. He’s realizes that what he did killed someone that he truly loved.”

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or dwright@seattletimes.com