Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of La Sylphide is that it was this ballet originally performed in 1832 with Marie Taglioni in the lead role that the art form of pointe was introduced.
When Taglioni delicately lifted her body up onto her toes, she brought the magical, dainty qualities of the Sylphide to life. For this feat of strength was the first glimpse of the most iconic image of the classical ballet dancer. Pointe work is now employed by all professional ballet dancers and is a much coveted and respected technique.
Pointe has also been associated with fetishism; Taglioni’s own pointe shoes from her final performance in 1842 are believed to be have been bought with the intention to be cooked and eaten by a group of balletomanes.
This fetishism, desire and obsession of the unattainable brings me to The Australian Ballet’s performance of La Sylphide.
Destined to marry Effie (Natasha Kusen), James (Adam Bull) dozes by the fire when he is woken by the Sylphide (Lana Jones). Tempting him to abandon his fiancé, the Sylphide convinces James to follow her into the woods. However, regardless of the Sylphides love, James is unable to catch, and, driven mad by his desire is tricked into taking an enchanted scarf from Madge, a witch (played with a unique flair for the dramatic by Matthew Donnelly).
Madge convinces James the scarf will bind the Sylphide to him when in reality it will only destroy the young couple, killing the Sylphide as revenge for James’ cruel behavior towards Madge in the opening act.
One of the early romantic ballets, there can be no happy ending for the lovers, whose doomed romance is beautifully portrayed by the entire cast.
La Sylphide is a classic piece of dance that needs no tricks or stunts to detract from the magic taking place on stage. Exceptional footwork form Jones and the chorus of woodland Sylph’s is nothing less than magical.
Brett Simon who plays Gurn steals the show with his comic portrayal of his cousins’ desperation to catch the Sylphide of which only James can see.
La Sylphide is one of the easier ballets to watch, the linear narrative makes this romantic tragedy accessible to all ballet audiences.
Magnificent costumes add to the ethereal beauty of the Sylphide. and Anne Fraser should be commended for her costume and set design which pull the entire performance together.
An incredible score by Herman Lovenskiod and choreography by Erik Bruhn after August Bournoville, La Sylphide is simply a magical encounter with the Australian Ballet’s exceptional dancers.
The Australian Ballet presents
29 August – 7 September, 2013
Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre
With Orchestra Victoria
7 – 25 November, 2013
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
with Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra