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La Sylphide

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I just read in the latest Kennedy Center News that the Washington Ballet will be performing 'La Sylphide' February 11-15 along with 'Celts' by Lila York in a program called 'Highland Fling'. This ought to be interesting; I am looking forward to seeing it. We don't seem to get Bournonville often in DC. I do question the wisdom, though, of following 'La Sylphide' with 'Celts'.

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It's a wonderful article (by Sarah Kaufman) and there's a photo gallery of past Jameses on line.

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Very interesting. I hope ABT would also get help from the Danes when they do La Sylphide this June. Many of the main cast are doing it for the 1st time(at least with ABT).

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Does anybody have the principal casting schedule? I have tix for the Wednesday night 'preview' (the unofficial opening night) and am wondering if I will be seeing Hallberg or one of the excellent Washington Ballet men as James.

No word yet on either the WB or KennCen websites. Was wondering if anybody affiliated with the troupe may be able to help.

Thanks, in advance. :wink:

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I believe that Mr. Hallberg will be dancing on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. I'll be at the Sunday show! :)

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I believe that Mr. Hallberg will be dancing on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. I'll be at the Sunday show! :wub:

Thanks, little-duck, not only for this information but for writing your very first BT post to answer my question. (Welcome!)

Now I am especially looking forward to tonight's performance.

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I don't know how I missed the original notice of this performance (well, yes I do, it was Nutcracker season!).....just happening to be in MD this week, what a treat---I'll be there tomorrow night!!!

thanks for the heads up!

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You are welcome, Natalia! I am especially looking forward to the performance since my son is one of the lucky Washington Ballet students that was selected to be in La Sylphide!

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Aha! So your son will probably be dancing in the Act I reel, I am guessing. What fun!

I'll be at tonight's opener.

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Washington Ballet at Kennedy Center

"Highland Fling" Program:

La Sylphide (Bournonville)

Celts (York)

February 11, 2009

The Washington Ballet is at an all-time high with this sublime-yet-exciting program!

SYLPHIDE Notes -

ABT principal David Hallberg's finely-detailed acting and gorgeous petit-batterie dancing as James took the cake but it's Danish guest Sorella Englund's richly nuanced portrayal of Madge that I will remember for years to come...not just a stereotypical old crone but an embittered lady with a whiff of glamour. I will never forget her chilly glances at Anna, James' mother, during the forest 'family betrothal' episode when Gurn proposes to Effy. As the Sylph, WB principal Elizabeth Gaither certainly has a fine technique, lively face and gorgeous feet but she has yet to find the poetry & 'lightness' in ballon that is essential to this role. Also, she seemed challenged by the pirouettes in demi-pointe. I almost prefered the 'leading corps sylph' in Act 2, Rui Huang, who truly has the ballon down pat. The ensemble -- magnificent, including those children, dancing one of the best Scottish Reels in balletdom! There was orchestral accompaniment, a rare treat in today's dwindling economy.

CELTS Notes -

As if a great performance of a full-length ballet is not enough...here came Lila York's CELTS, stealing the Sylph's thunder. Riverdance on Pointe! There was even a zippy 'Flatley Clone' guy in black (edited to add name: Joel Prouty, guest dancer). Lord of the Ballet? This 30-minute work to taped Irish folk tunes -- some of it by the Chieftains -- could have sunk into kitsch but, miraculously, it did not. The 'romantic tall couple' of Luis R. Torres and Sona Kharatian provided elegance and gravitas, while Maki Onuki and Jared Nelson danced the more folk-flavored, high-flying pair in bright red. The socko ending for full corps had many of us in the audience leaping to our feet as the curtain fell.

Post-performance ''Ballet Talks" -

Septime Webre welcomed guests, star dancer David Hallberg (ABT guest) and CELTS' choreographer Lila York. Most in the audience stayed for this. Hallberg was very eloquent in describing how he got into the role of James. Interestingly, he credited Johann Kobborg as the person who taught him the role...even though the Wash Post only mentioned the connection with Thomas Lund, who was in DC staging the ballet (but now gone, I guess...not seen in curtain calls). York talked about the creative process and how much she most enjoys working with large groups, not typical of today's choreographers. She often 'works out' possible patterns on paper before going into the studio. When somebody asked how the CELTS piece came about she answered that Boston Ballet had commissioned a work and only asked that (a) it be to taped music and (b) involve a large corps de ballet + soloists. Part of the inspiration for an Irish work came from traveling through Ireland and Scotland with her parents, not long before receiving the commission.

A not-to-be-missed program!

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I believe the guest dancer you may be referring to in Celts was Joel Prouty who until recently was a soloist with Boston Ballet.

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Thank you, Rory. He was indeed fantastic. In fact, it was an extraordinary performance from all dancers on the stage, soloists and corps. CELTS stole the show from SYLPHIDE, if that is imaginable.

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Natalia, please could you tell us what Englund did right at the end of La Sylphide, in the last second or two, after James has (probably) died? Was she exultant, or despairing? Did she do her 'I was a sylphide myself' bit, shown by lifting up her skirt to show a bedraggled sylphide skirt underneath?

Also, I think the Washington Post article said that Hallberg has already danced James elsewhere, so maybe it was Kobborg who orginally taught him the role.

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Natalia, please could you tell us what Englund did right at the end of La Sylphide, in the last second or two, after James has (probably) died? Was she exultant, or despairing? Did she do her 'I was a sylphide myself' bit, shown by lifting up her skirt to show a bedraggled sylphide skirt underneath?

Also, I think the Washington Post article said that Hallberg has already danced James elsewhere, so maybe it was Kobborg who orginally taught him the role.

He danced the role in a Kobborg-staged Japanese production last year.

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It's a wonderful article (by Sarah Kaufman) and there's a photo gallery of past Jameses on line.

Among the greats to have left Copenhagen for wider fame are ...."

Alexandra I noticed Peter Schaufuss is missing from the list. I believe that he and the Festival Ballet production was not so well received in the USA, but I personally admired Schaufuss and Evdokimova in London on a number of occasions in this ballet.

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Natalia, please could you tell us what Englund did right at the end of La Sylphide, in the last second or two, after James has (probably) died? Was she exultant, or despairing? Did she do her 'I was a sylphide myself' bit, shown by lifting up her skirt to show a bedraggled sylphide skirt underneath?

...

Jane, it was very subtle but powerful. Englund left James and slowly crossed the stage to audience-left wing, with a smile...but the split-second before disappearing into the wing, the smile dissolves into a look of despair and a hand comes up to her face, as if to ask "Wait - What have I just done?" No lifting of the skirt, as in the current Bolshoi production.

I remember Englund's Madge from the most recent Bournonville Festival in Copenhagen. She was great there but, IMO, she has fine-tuned the characterization even more so here. Also, she probably does it slightly differently with different Jameses.

p.s. - A crazy aside: In America, casual (non-regular) ballet audiences tend to "boo" the villains of ballets when they come out for curtain calls. I was so very angry the other night when they began to do this to Englund. She seemed a bit startled and quickly took her place back in the line of soloists. My husband and I, on the other hand, were screaming our heads off with "Brava! Brava!" to try to counter the idiocy of the boos.

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Oh, for heaven's sake. I had hoped DC was beyond that sort of thing.

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Oh, for heaven's sake. I had hoped DC was beyond that sort of thing.

It's what I term 'Nutcracker Syndrome" - they learn to boo the King of the Mice at NUTCRACKER. If they ever see another story-ballet in their lives, they think that they are supposed to boo the dancer who performs the role of any villain. Interestingly, some American companies are prepared for this, e.g., when ABT last performed its SWAN LAKE at the Kennedy Center, the guy who essayed Von Rothbart/Green-Monster-Thing (Isaac Stappas, I believe) played along with the boos. I still find it rude, though. The curtain calls are for the dancer-artists, not the characters portrayed, IMO. In the case or Sorella Englund's Madge, I thought that it was totally rude, as her portrayal was so subtle and not an uni-dimensional clown-villain.

The Kennedy Center needs to borrow the sign on top of the proscenium of the Royal Theater in Copenhagen: "Not Just for Entertainment" [or something akin to that translation]

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I look forward to Maki Onuki's lone performance of the title role at the Saturday matinee. Judging by her performance in CELTS, below, she will have ballon to spare.

A prophecy fulfilled - Onuki at the Sat. mat. was indeed amazing. She was lighter than air, and her blissed-out "Happy Sylph" interpretation made the denouement all the more poignant. Then, after jumping for an hour in Sylphide, she still had energy to burn in the vigorous "Celts!"

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Also, she probably does it slightly differently with different Jameses.

This wouldn't surprise me in the least. The last time the RDB danced in New York (and we're talking ancient history here), we noticed that the "stage business" of senior artists Kirsten Simone and Neils Kehlet could bear little resemblance from one night to the next. Apparently one of the set-in-stone RDB traditions, where appropriate, is improvisation. :)

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It's what I term 'Nutcracker Syndrome" - they learn to boo the King of the Mice at NUTCRACKER. If they ever see another story-ballet in their lives, they think that they are supposed to boo the dancer who performs the role of any villain. Interestingly, some American companies are prepared for this, e.g., when ABT last performed its SWAN LAKE at the Kennedy Center, the guy who essayed Von Rothbart/Green-Monster-Thing (Isaac Stappas, I believe) played along with the boos. I still find it rude, though. The curtain calls are for the dancer-artists, not the characters portrayed, IMO. In the case or Sorella Englund's Madge, I thought that it was totally rude, as her portrayal was so subtle and not an uni-dimensional clown-villain.

I see your point in regards to Englund's performance, but in general, would an audience boo after an indifferent performance of a villian's role, or at least boo as much? I'd rather cheer the performer than boo the character, but it seems to me that either response is a tribute to a role well done. I feel bad that Englund misunderstood, but I don't see anything rude in a little silliness.

Thanks for the review; I wish I'd seen this.

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I don't see anything rude in a little silliness.

C'mon...what's next...? screaming "Go away!" to Myrtha... like the story of that little girl at the vision of the Mice King...? :)

It is time to start acting like a sophisticated audience, for God's sake, and if this is not the case, well, there is always that famous saying..."fake it 'till you make it", so let's start pretending that we are knowledgeable and reserve the booing for a bad performance-(I have a balletomane friend who actually LOVES to boo, specially choreographers that he dislike right when they are pulled out at curtain calls... :dunno: )

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cubanmiamiboy, I think unsophisticated it a good way to describe it. I have to wonder if the booers were really moved by the ballet's story, or if they just perceived the whole performance, tragedy though it is, as light, pretty entertainment. But I don't think it's rude to be unsophisticated. And that was my point. :huh:

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while i would not participate in 'booing the villian,' i find the urge/tradition somewhat amusing. it takes one back to reacting to the mustachioed villian in silent movies. as noted above, the character obviously made his or her point with the public and thus 'touched' them and touched the narratives intended nerves.

it might be wise to prepare foreign artists who are unaware of this 'idea' of the possibility of this reaction, so they don't take it personally.

most american dancers in this spot seem to be amused at it and even sneer back in witty reaction.

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