Culture Monster

All the Arts, All the Time

« Previous Post | Culture Monster Home | Next Post »

'La Sylphide': the bad girl of Romantic classical ballet

May 9, 2009 | 12:00 pm

Eddy Tovar, Corina Gill

With her appearance in the title role of "La Sylphide" in Los Angeles Ballet's upcoming performances of the 19th century Romantic classical ballet (read our Sunday story), company dancer Corina Gill, 27, adds her name to the long list of distinguished ballerinas who have savored the role since it was first danced by Marie Taglioni at the Paris Opera in 1832.

The Sylphide, a winged spirit, comes between lovers James and Effie on the day of their planned wedding, stealing the wedding ring intended for Effie and fleeing with it into the woods, enticing the confused young groom-to-be to follow. The village witch, Madge, predicts that Effie will instead marry Gurn, Effie's long-disappointed suitor.

To fulfill her prophecy, Madge gives James a magical scarf and tells him the garment has the power to entrap the elusive Sylph. Instead, when James wraps the scarf around the Sylph, she loses her wings and dies. Overcome with grief, James collapses, hearing the joyous sounds of Effie and Gurn's wedding in the background. 

Taglioni danced the first version of the ballet, choreographed by Filippo Taglioni to music by Jean Schneitzhoffer; Los Angeles Ballet will be performing the August Bournonville version, to music by Herman Lovenskjold, which premiered in Copenhagen in 1836 and has since become a staple in the repertory of the Royal Danish ballet.

A revival of the Taglioni version was staged by Pierre Lacotte for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1972. Since Taglioni's choreography has been irretrievably lost, Lacotte's choreography is based on prints, notes, drawings and archival materials from the era of the ballet's premiere.

Neither version should be confused with "Les Sylphides," a 1908 one-act ballet choreographed by Michael Fokine to music by Frederic Chopin, although that ballet also features ethereal women with itty-bitty wings.

Says Gill of the Sylph: "She's a little troublemaker. I think she's very childlike, she has a very childlike thought process — a little manipulative, but in the way a child would be. She doesn't really know what she's doing. She's not evil." 

— Diane Haithman

Photo: Permanent guest artist Eddy Tovar and Corina Gill rehearse "La Sylphide" with Los Angeles Ballet. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times.

Related: Los Angeles Ballet works hard to reach the premier