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The National Ballet of Canada

April 8, 2016

La Sylphide

Reviewed April 7, 2016

NAC Southam Hall, Ottawa

(Repeat performances through to April 9, 8 p.m.)

NBC_LaSylphide_jurgita dronina_photography by aleksandar antonijevic.jpg

Jurgita Dronina as the Sylphide, Photography by Aleksandar Antonijevic

La Sylphide is one of those ballets always worth watching. One of the oldest, created by the acclaimed Danish choreographer August Bournonville 180 years ago, the ballet is classical French tradition infused with Bournonville’s distinctive quick-footed, joyful style. This week, the National Ballet premieres Johan Kobborg’s impressive version of this iconic romantic classic in Ottawa.

The two-act ballet is not long – just over an hour and a half – and its fast pace and beautiful set and costumes designed by the award-winning Desmond Heeley will keep you more than satisfactorily entertained.

Accompanied by 19th century Norwegian composer Herman Severin Løvenskiold’s melodious score, performed by the National Arts Centre Orchestra, La Sylphide requires strong and challenging performances from its principals and corps. On Thursday, Francesco Gabriele Frola and Piotr Stanczyk danced the major male roles of James and his rival Gurn respectively, the latter particularly impressive with his powerful and energetic leaps. Jurgita Dronina was a fluently expressive and mischievous sylphide, while Meghan Pugh was a charming, demure Effie, James’s fiancée and later Gurn’s bride. Sonia Rodriguez played the evil sorceress Madge, bringing her own bewitching craziness to the part.

As old as the story is, and mystical in its tale of enchantment of a young Scotsman on his wedding day by a diaphanous wood spirit, the yarn is indeed a timeless one: detached groom enticed by unattainable woman forsakes the one who loves him for her, only to lose them both. The message could well be A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush. Nevertheless, the story ballet, rife with prettily clad reeling wedding guests, musicians, servants, witches and wood nymphs, draws us back in time to this dream world where we can believe in magical sylphs.

The men in plaid kilts, velvet jackets and argyle socks, the women in pastel tea-party frocks and brilliant calf-length tutus, and the witches in their gloomy rags fill the stage with colour and frolic. There is a beautiful contrast when James joins the sylphs in their sunlit forest glade – he all energy and sharpness, the women all grace and light-footedness.

All in all, the ballet is picturesque and the performance admirably dancey.


From → Ballet

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