From the archive: watch our very first Giselle on film

We opened our production of Mary Skeaping’s classic Giselle at the London Coliseum this week, so there’s no better time to share an incredible archive recording of our very first Giselle from 1952.

Filmed at Riverside Studios during our very first season at the Stoll Theatre in 1951, the film is the oldest surviving recording of English National Ballet (then Festival Ballet) performing and is available in full on our YouTube Channel:

Featuring our founders Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin performing in the roles of Giselle and Albrecht, the 30 minute narrated version of the ballet received its premiere screening at the Rialto Cinema, Leicester Square in May 1952.

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Anton Dolin explained at the time that act one of the ballet was “filmed in absolute straightforward style, as if we were in a theatre stage. But for the second act, we are using all the technical magic of the film camera, with such things as superimposed shots to give speed and effect.”

The film was originally planned as the first of a series of ballet films and was expected to be followed by Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Petrochka. Although only one film was made, it survives to provide an interesting insight into this iconic ballet, which has been treasured by English National Ballet for 65 years.