La Sylphide: revenge of the witch

August 4, 2009 at 1:09 am | Posted in Ballet Review | Leave a comment
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I went to a performance of La Sylphide put on by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Warning: plot revealed.

August 1, 2009 by Show_Hanger

Having read about the Danish style of ballet, I looked forward to seeing a quitissential Danish ballet work. (Actually, the Royal New Zealand Ballet was founded by a proponent of the Danish style, so I should have noticed the jumps and active male partnering long before this!)

The programme:

  • Dances from Napoli
    • Pas de Six
    • Flower Festival
    • Tarantella
  • La Sylphide

– originally choreographed by August Bournonville.

I was struck by Flower Festival – Michael Braun brought lift and a sense of (his) enjoyment.

Then it was onto the main fare: a man – James – about to get married falls in love with a Sylph (a spirit). Who said the Scots were a dour lot! So off he goes – following his heart – leaving his own wedding celebration. It all ends badly: not the least because he humiliates the village hag (‘Madge’ – played by Sir Jon Trimmer, with a real feeling for the part). Michael Braun is James, and the Sylph is danced by Antonia Hewitt. Braun is powerful and controlled, and yet able to project the emotions going through the James character.

I liked the wedding – people enjoying themselves – with the Sylph fluttering in and out when only James could see her. The Sylph is very much the marriage wrecker – James trys to resist her, but he is just a foolish man. The wedding is made much more 3-dimensional by the prescence Effie’s little sister – danced wonderfully in character by Emma Brown. The Company is precise as ever, but a ‘little’ girl has shorter legs, so must occassionally run to keep up with the dancers in the reel – wonderfull.

Rory Fairweather-Neylan, as Gurn, was at times quite funny: “I saw a fairy – right there!”. In fact there is quite a bit of humour in the ballet; it is a pity that it turns out to be more along the lines of a Greek tragedy.

Antonia Hewitt and the other sylphs are light and ethereal. It cannot be easy dancing the sylphs, as Marie Taglioni was considered by Bournonville as the quitessential sylph, and it cannot be easy living up to such a legendary ideal. Effie the jilted bride is ably danced by Adriana Harper; the plot does not have very much for her to do, which is a pity.

The two sets – castle and woods – were very good.

I found the two intervals – one after Dances from Naploli, and the second between the two acts from La Sylphide – had the effect of making the evening very ‘bitty’. The very traditional choreography also added to the sense that this was a series of dances – unlike ‘newer’ ballets which have smoother transitions between dances. It seemed a little 2-dimensional.

But I did get to see an example of the Danish style. There were a many jumps – particularly by the men – and in the pas de deux‘s the women were unsupported and their male partners had equal time.

Being a softy, I wish James and the sylph had not died. But he was a most ungenerous soul on his wedding day – casting out the village hag into the cold. And he did break his oath, so he certainly got his come uppance.

0.3

I did not like the fact that the cast list is no longer handed out. The cast list from the web site differed from the cast list shown on the monitors in the foyer spaces.

Roll on the Company’s Peter Pan in October!

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