Gretchen Erickson on Giselle Deslondes

The award winning production from 2016 is back for a three performance run beginning Friday, March 23 at Marigny Opera House

“To dance the title role is an immense challenge.”

In her third season with Marigny Opera Ballet, Gretchen Erickson choreographed “Silk and Smoke,” one of three jazz ballets that premiered in January and plunged head first into rehearsals for the title role in the much anticipated encore of “Giselle Deslondes.”

Like other ballet companies that double and sometimes triple cast the principal roles in the classical “Giselle,” Marigny Opera Ballet has two Giselles – Kellis Mc Sperrin Oldenburg, who created the role in 2016 and Erickson, who appeared as Julia and the Bokor in the inaugural production.

It’s a rigorous and demanding role, one that also calls for Erickson to appear as Julia in the Friday and Sunday performances and McSparrin Oldenburg to dance Julia on Saturday night.

What are the physical requirements of a role like “Giselle Deslondes”?
It has been a wonderful and rewarding challenge, dancing the role of Giselle in this season’s production of Maya Taylor’s “Giselle Deslondes.”  Her choreography is physically hard —demanding both strong ballet and contemporary techniques. The role requires the dancer to have the strength to preform technically difficult turns and jumps while maintaining the freedom of the spine to evoke a sense of abandonment of classical lines.

The role also pushes you to merge technique with dramatic interpretation. I love acting, and I find a great sense of release telling a story while dancing.  The role pushes you to experience a whirlwind of emotions from all-encompassing love to intense anger and sadness until Giselle finally goes mad and overcome with her heart condition and dies.

When Simone Messmer danced the role of Giselle with Miami City Ballet she said, “it was one of the first times as a ballerina that I let everything go and did not question where I was.” It is so true. When I am in the moment and my emotions are high, I have a sense of freedom from worrying about whether or not my technique is perfect. I am able to reach a state of flow in my performance where I am actually almost unaware of where my body is. . . .  it is just moving. For me, being able to reach that state is the most rewarding aspect of dance. It’s what I strive for in every performance.”

What kind of research did you do? You talked about the physicality of the choreography, but how did you go about accessing the emotional core of the role?

In order to prepare emotionally for the role, I have done a lot of thinking and reminiscing on times in my life where I have felt the way Giselle does. The ballet moves quickly, so being able to access and trigger those emotions honestly on stage requires some soul searching.

Balanchine called “Giselle” the Hamlet of ballet. Does your approach to “Giselle Deslondes” differ from Kellis’s?  How? 

I think “Giselle” has been compared to Hamlet because people come to see the show to see the different interpretations of the same story. Every dancer dances it differently and brings their own interpretation of the emotional drama.

Kellis and I (while often mistaken for the same person) dance differently and express feelings differently, so while the choreography is the same, our interpretation of the movement and emotions through our bodies is very different.

About Gretchen Erickson

Erickson’s training provides the physical and emotion center of her Giselle, beginning with work with Carol Angin at Louisiana Dance Theatre and performances at Regional Dance America Festivals, Jazz Dance World Congress, and the Tanzsommer Festival in Austria and Germany.

Additional training came from the Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and the Joffery Ballet School in New York.  A scholarship to the BFA program at New World School of the Arts led to dancing with Of Moving Colors Contemporary Dance Company.

In 2014, Erickson received a Leverhulme grant for further postgraduate study at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London, where she graduated with a Masters of Dance Performance. She’s also performed with Transitions Dance Company dancing works by Bawren Tavaziva, Zoi Dimitriou and Miguel Pereira throughout the UK and internationally.

She is also a Pilates teacher at Romney Pilates and a ballet teacher at New Orleans School of Ballet.

Performances are scheduled at the Marigny Opera House, 725 St. Ferdinand St. on Friday, Mar. 23, Saturday, Mar. 24, at 8pm, and Sunday Mar. 25  at 7 p.m. Tickets $40/$25 (students and seniors) are available at or at the door. Additional information:






Book of Saints – The Lyrics

The score for the Book of Saints, composed by Tucker Fuller, is a cantata for soloists and chorus. The lyrics are poems, prayers and historical accounts illustrating the lives of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Sebastian and St. Francis of Assisi. Unfortunately, they could not be included in the performance program booklets, but are listed here along with translations.






Act One


  1. Overture – Kryie Elison (Litany of Saints)



Kyrie, eléison.

Christe, eléison.

Kyrie, eléison.


Christe, audi nos.

Christe, axáudi nos.

Pater de caelis, Deus, miserére nobis.

Fili, Redémptor mundi, Deus, miserére nobis.

Spiritus Sancte, Deus, miserére nobis.

Sancta Trinitas, unus Deus, miserére nobis.

Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis.

Sancta Dei Génitrix,

Sancta Virgo virginum,

Sancti Sebastiáne,

Omnes sancti Mártyres,

Sancte Teresa

Omnes sancti Doctóres,

Sancte Francisce,

Omnes sancti Mónachi et Eremitae,

Omnes Sancti et Sanctae Dei, intercédite pro nobis.



  1. Apparitions



3: “Recuerda que solo tienes un alma” – St. Teresa of Avila

Mezzo-Soprano Solo


Recuerda que solo tienes un alma;

Que sólo tienes una muerte para morir;

Que sólo tienes una vida, que es corta y tiene que ser vivida solo por ti;

Y sólo hay una Gloria, que es eterna.

Si haces esto, habrá muchas cosas sobre las cuales no te importa nada.



Remember that you have only one soul;

that you have only one death to die;

that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone;

and there is only one Glory, which is eternal.

If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.


  1. The beginning of the “Great Persecution” under Diocletian and Galerius in 303

as found in Lactantius Liber de Mortibus Persecutorum, XI – XIII (On the Deaths of Persecutors, Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died)


I lle dies primus leti primusque malorum causa fuit,

quae et ipsis et orbi terrarum acciderunt.


2 Qui dies cum illuxisset agentibus consulatum senibus ambobus octavum et septimum, repente adhuc dubia luce ad ecclesiam praefectus cum ducibus et tribunis et rationalibus venit et revulsis foribus simulacrum dei quaeritur, scripturae repertae incenduntur, datur omnibus praeda, rapitur, trepidatur, discurritur.


3 Ipsi vero in speculis–in alto enim constituta ecclesia ex palatio videbatur–diu inter se concertabant, utrum ignem potius supponi oporteret.


4 Vicit sententia Diocletianus cavens, ne magno incendio facto pars aliqua vivitatis arderet. Nam multae ac magnae domus ab omni parte cingebant.


5 Veniebant igitur praetoriani acie structa cum securibus et aliis ferramentis et immissi undique fanum illud editissimum paucis horis solo adaequarunt.



1 That day, the harbinger of death, arose,

First cause of ill, and long enduring woes;

of woes which befell not only the Christians, but the whole earth.

2 When that day dawned, in the eighth consulship of Diocletian and seventh of Maximian, suddenly, while it was yet hardly light, the prefect, together with chief commanders, tribunes, and officers of the treasury, came to the church in Nicomedia, and the gates having been forced open, they searched everywhere for an image of the Divinity.

The books of the Holy Scriptures were found, and they were committed to the flames; the utensils and furniture of the church were abandoned to pillage: all was rapine, confusion, tumult.

3 That church, situated on rising ground, was within view of the palace; and Diocletian and Galerius stood, as if on a watch-tower, disputing long whether it ought to be set on fire.

4 The sentiment of Diocletian prevailed, who dreaded lest, so great a fire being once kindled, some part of the city might he burnt; for there were many and large buildings that surrounded the church.

5 Then the Pretorian Guards came in battle array, with axes and other iron instruments, and having been let loose everywhere, they in a few hours levelled that very lofty edifice with the ground.


  1. “Non al suo amante piú Dïana piacque,” – Petrarch Canzoniere 52


Non al suo amante piú Dïana piacque,

quando per tal ventura tutta ignuda

la vide in mezzo de le gelide acque,


ch’a me la pastorella alpestra et cruda

posta a bagnar un leggiadretto velo,

ch’a l’aura il vago et biondo capel chiuda,


tal che mi fece, or quand’egli arde ‘l cielo,

tutto tremar d’un amoroso gielo.



Diana was not more pleasing to her lover,

when by chance he saw her all naked

in the midst of icy waters,


than, to me, the fresh mountain shepherdess,

set there to wash a graceful veil,

that ties her vagrant blonde hair from the breeze,


so that she makes me, now that the heavens burn,

tremble, wholly, with the chill of love.



Act Two


  1. Entr’acte – Propitius esto (Litany of Saints)



Propitius esto, parce nobis, Dómini.

Propitius esto, exáudi nos, Dómini.

Ab omni malo, libera nos, Dómine.

Ab omni peccáto,

Ab ira tua,

A subitánea et improvisa morte,

Ab insidiis diáboli,

Ab ira, et ódio, et omni mala voluntáte,

A spiritu fornicatiónis,

A fúlgure et tempestáte,

A flagéllo terraemótus,

A peste, fame et bello,

A morte perpétua,

Per mystérium sanctae incarnatiónis tuae,

Per advéntuum tuum,

Per nativitátem tuam,

Per baptismum, et sanctum jejúnium tuum,

Per crucem et passiónem tuam,

Per mortem et sepultúram tuam,

Per sanctam, resurrectónem tuam,

Per admirábilem ascensiónem tuam,

per advéntum Spiritus Sancti Parácliti,

In die judicii, Líbera nos, Dómine.

Peccatóres, te rogámus, audi nos.



  1. “Nada te turbe” – St. Teresa of Avila

Sopranos and Altos


Nada te turbe

nada te espante

Todo se pasa

Dios nose muda.

La paciencia todo alcanza.

Quien a Dios tiene

nada le falta

Solo Dios basta.



Let nothing disturb you,

nothing frighten you,

All things are passing.

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things.

Whoever has God lacks nothing.

God is enough.



8 “O martyr Sebastiane” ‑ Motetus (Anonymous)



O martyr Sebastiane,

Tu semper nobiscum mane

Atque per tua merita

Nos, qui sumus in hac vita,


Custodi, sana et rege

Et a peste nos protege

Praesentans nos trinitati

Et virgini sanctae matri.


Et sic vitam finiamus,

Quod mercedem habeamus

Et martyrum consortium

Et Deum videre pium.



O martyr Sebastian

Remain always with us

And through your merits

Guard us, who are in this life,


Heal and rule us

And from plague protect us

Presenting us to the Trinity

And holy virgin mother.


And may we end our life thus

That we may have the prize

And the brotherhood of martyrs

And see our holy God.



  1. “Domine, fac me servum pacis tuae” – St. Francis of Assisi

Tenor Solo


Domine, fac me servum pacis tuae,

ubi odium, amorem seram;

ubi iniuria, veniam;

ubi dubium, fidem;

ubi desperatio, spem;

ubi caligo, lucem;

ubi tristitia, laetitiam.

O Domine coelestis,

Nam in dando recipimus,

In ignoscendo, ignos cimur,

Et in moriendo ad vitam aeternam nascimur





Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon,

Where there is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.


O Divine Master,

It is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we have eternal life.



  1. Litany of the Saints – Agnus Dei


Conclusion of the Litany of Saints


Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccáta mundi, parce nobis, Dómine.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccáta mundi, Dómine,

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccáta mundi, exáudi nos, Dómine,

Christe, audi nos.

Christe, exáudi nos.


Kyrie, eléison.

Christie, eléison.

Kyrie, eléison.