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American Ballet Theatre - Sylphs and other Forest Creatures

by Marian Horosko
June 24, 2009
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023
212.875.5456

Featured Dance Company:

American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre (office)
890 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
212-477-3030
www.abt.org

It wasn't long after music attempted to break away from classic forms that dance followed. Schumann, Liszt, Chopin and others led the way in 19th century music and ushered in the Romantic Age of neo-classic dance forms. With "La Sylphide," created by Filippo Taglioni for his daughter, Marie in 1832, the world would forevermore see ethereal, fairy-like creatures dressed in white, roaming around forests, woods and the second act in ballets. The characteristic of the neo-classic Romantic plot, was to treat the subject matter on two planes: the reality (usually bitter) and the beautiful dream. Rising for the first time on her toes, garbed in calf-length flowing material, festooned with flowers, and flaunting a new technique of softly rising and lowering to the ground, soaring without a partner, and being unattainable among mortals, she brought new technique, lyric movements and disappeared into the woods, unattainable to mere mortals. She invaded the second act of "La Sylphide," "Giselle," and Fokine's "Les Sylphides.

This season, she stayed for a week June 15-June 20 on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in American Ballet Theatre's production as the greatest of them all danced by the legendary ABT principal since 1993, Nina Ananiashvili from Tbilisi, Georgia (Balanchine's home town) and about to retire from the company. She has a remarkable group in Tbilisi. Amazingly, she retains her strength, technical capacity, steely poines and "star" quality in whatever she appears.

In ABT's Bournonville version of "La Sylphide," staged by Erik Bruhn, the story concerns a Scotsman, James, who is about to marry Effie. But as he sits by the fire, the Sylphide appears, and awakens him with an airy kiss and disappears. James, danced by blond David Hallberg, heretofore a blah personality on stage with clear, clean beats, was evidently inspired by his magnificent partner into becoming a very passable principal. The Danish technique requires articulation in the feet, freedom from tour-de-force steps , simple port de bras and a handsome bearing. It's always gratifying to see growth in a young artist.

As the story progresses, there is the usual hag in the form of a fortune teller, witch or trouble maker foretelling doom as James pursues the Sylphide into the forest. This precipitates the inevitable group of sister sylphides in a dark forest, confusing the male principal dancer who, in this case, eventually encases the sylphide in a scarf which causes her to lose her wings as it becomes her shroud. The witch, is triumphant.

Although beautiful in concept, ABT's lighting leaves much to be desired as the season, about to end July 11 with a week of "Swan Lake;" June 22-27, "Sylvia;" June 29-July 4 (matinee); and "Romeo and Juiliet," July 6-11 still to come. Don't miss Cory Stearns and Hee Seo in this production on July 9. Both have enormous potential and appeal.
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