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Ballet classics – La Sylphide

Ballet classics – La Sylphide

Jurgita Dronina and Harrison James dance in La Sylphide. (ALEKSANDAR ANTONJEVIC

Here we have another story of magical beings, love, betrayal and star crossed lovers. Spot a theme?!

La Sylphide is actually one of the oldest surviving ballets, dating back to 1832! The version we live and know today was choreographed by August Bournonville in 1836.

It’s set in bonny Scotland around a man named JAMES and his fiancé Effie on the lead up to their wedding in a country farmhouse.

One night, James falls asleep by the fire, a SYLPH (a forest spirit) falls in love with him, dances around him and eventually kisses him. As he wakes up, she disappears. James wakes his friend GURN, who doesn’t know anything about the Sylph. James puts it behind him and thinks about his upcoming wedding.

As Effie and her bridal party arrive, James goes out to greet them but sees a shadow behind them. He runs over, thinking it is the Sylph, but instead he finds OLD MADGE, a local witch. James is disappointed. Effie asks the witch to read their fortune. She tells her that James is in love with someone else and that Effie will end up with Gurn. James is angry and forces Old Madge to leave.

James is alone and the Sylph appears to him again. He is totally captivated by her and they kiss. Gurn sees all this and runs to tell Effie. But when everyone arrives in the room to see what’s going on, the Sylph has disappeared and they think Gurn has made it up out of jealousy. Festivities and dancing break out. The Sylph returns and takes the wedding ring off James, putting it on her own finger and running off into the forest. James immediately follows leaving Effie heartbroken.

The Sylph introduces James to her forest friends and they dance for him. Meanwhile the other guests have followed into the forest looking for James. Gurn finds his hat, and comes across Old Madge. She tells him to propose to Effie, which he does and she accepts, then they leave. James returns and Old Madge gives h a magic scarf. She tells him it will bind the Sylph to him forever and they can be together.

Reunited with the Sylph, he loves the scarf around her, her wings fall off, but she then dies. He sees her spirit above him and collapses. Madge is happy with the results.

Another ballet from the romantic era, so expect dreamy long tulle skirted tutus, lots of Georgia and elevation in allegro sections, and gorgeous little freeze frame moments. A good dash of Scottish dancing, bagpipes and kilts make it a much more colourful affair! But I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of these endings, I’m a typical ‘happily ever after’ kind of girl. Maybe I’ll start re writing my own endings!

Alicia 💗

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