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Explore the world of the exquisitely dark 19th century Romantic ballet, Giselle... ... its past and future, its creators, characters and performers... ... through films, sound works and the written word.

An experiment

Glitch/Giselle is an experiment - a prototype for a new kind of project that:

• Shines a light on the future by digging into the past;

• Draws on museum objects, historic film and sound recordings, literature and archive documents as source material and uses them as raw material for open-ended creative exploration;

• Accommodates a large cast of contributors in a wide range of disciplines including: research, dance, critical writing, oral history, discussion, education work, film-making, music composition and sound engineering;

• Makes a deep impact in the real world while in production and leaves an indefinitely lasting online legacy for education, research and enjoyment.

• Responds to Mark Fisher’s ‘popular modernist' challenge i.e. to innovate cultural forms adequate to contemporary experience.

Introducing Giselle

Giselle is a Romantic ballet in two acts. The heroine is a young girl who loves dancing. Act One tells how she unwisely falls in love with a young nobleman. He deceives and betrays her. When Giselle discovers his betrayal she goes mad, dances wildly and dies. In Act Two she returns as a ghost to dance with a troupe of Wilis. These female spirits take revenge on unfaithful lovers by dancing them to death. When Giselle's repentant lover comes looking for her grave, Giselle resists the queen of the Wilis and dances him to safety.

For anyone who needs a general introduction, the Wikipedia entry for Giselle does an excellent job. To enjoy the ballet itself there are several complete performances online, including this classical production from La Scala.


Giselle has been continuously performed and revived since its première in 1841. Of all the Romantic ballets, it is the one that really grips people. So many ballerinas refer to Giselle in the title of their autobiographies. Why is that? We have been trying to understand its fascination.

How to use this website

This website is presented in the form of a deck of tarot cards. Each card represents one aspect of the world of Giselle as seen through the lens of our project.

Like a tarot deck, the cards appear in groups. Also like a tarot deck, the cards have affinities. So each card connects to a set of related cards.

Explore the world of Giselle by turning over cards and moving between them.

The button at the top left of each page will take you back to the home screen. There are short cuts and links in the footer for references, credits, etc...

About the groups of cards

The cards are divided into five groups:

  • Arcana represents key elements in the world of the ballet.
  • Readings represent different ways of reading the ballet's plot.
  • Performances talk about key performances in the history of the ballet and our encounter with it.
  • Films are films made by Marisa Zanotti and the team inspired by the ballet.
  • Podcasts are recorded interviews with some of the experts who have kindly advised us on aspects of the world of Giselle.

The tarot

Card metaphors have been used as a way to organise digital information since the introduction of Apple's influential HyperCard system in 1987. In this project we have elaborated on the card idea by giving it the trappings of a tarot deck.

The tarot gives us a way to construct a 'deck' out of interconnected but diverse material. This, in turn, gives you a way to make a hypertext journey through the past, present and future worlds of Giselle.

The overall aim is a scheme that is comprehensible, capable of containing a diverse range of material, coherent and extensible while at the same time being playful and fun to explore.

For more on the idea of tarot as a model for human thought, you might like this useful article: Carl Jung: Tarot Cards Provide Doorways to the Unconscious, and Maybe a Way to Predict the Future. See also the Memory Theatre ideas explored in the work of Frances Yates. Her book 'The Art of Memory' is particularly apt.

About the design

In case you were wondering...

The cursor we're using refers to a detail from the iconic image of Carlotta Grisi as Giselle. She is dressed for the end of Act One as the queen of the vintage and shown holding a thyrsus. This strange object is the wand used by the Maenads in their Bacchic orgies. Use your thyrsus to move through the site.

The background of the card pages is a detail from the decoration of the Hotel Lauzun, the site of Giselle's author Théophile Gautier's notorious Club des Hashischins.

Other details of the design are inspired by our research or the traditions of the tarot.


We hope that you enjoy your time here and that it provokes some sort of glitch, however large or small, for you.

The Glitch Projects Team

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