Jump to content


Les Sylphides - ABT Question


  • Please log in to reply
13 replies to this topic

#1 Yvonne

Yvonne

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 115 posts

Posted 29 May 2001 - 01:41 PM

I don't think Les Sylphides is in ABT's current rep? Does anybody know when it last was? I love this ballet (especially the music), but the only ABT cast I've ever seen in is the Baryshnikov/Tcherkassky/Harvey/Yeager cast that is on the "ABT at the Met" video.

I know many great companies have staged this ballet throughout the years - does anyone have a favorite cast or production that comes to mind?? :)

#2 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,248 posts

Posted 29 May 2001 - 02:44 PM

That used to be a repertory staple with ABT, but I don't think they've done it in several years. I liked Ivan Nagy in it.

I saw the Kirov do it when the company came to Wolf Trap in the mid-1980s and loved them in it.

It actually was everybody's repertory staple for eons, and perhaps it was done to death. By the time I got to see it (in the mid-1970s) it was pretty lifeless, I thought. I used to have fantasies that someone would slip the conductor 25 bucks to speed up the tempo. Dah...DAH....dum.........dah dah dah DUM........................dah dah dah DUM......DAH......et cetera, et cetera, and so forth.

I'd love to see a good revival of "Les Sylphides." I've heard balletmasters say that it is extremely difficult to stage -- one of those ballets that looks easy, because there are no tricks in it, but is quite difficult, and especially difficult stylistically.

#3 Victoria Leigh

Victoria Leigh

    Silver Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 603 posts

Posted 29 May 2001 - 07:18 PM

It was a staple when I was in the co., in the days of one night stand tours :) The corps de ballet was rehearsed to the eyelash by Dimitri Romanoff, and it was indeed very, very difficult to do it to the standard he expected. He made life hell on wheels for all new corps members - but they learned, and they got it right! I used to think sometimes that the biggest advantage to becoming a soloist was finally getting out of Les Sylphides :)

#4 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 29 May 2001 - 07:40 PM

I learned it from Vitale Fokine, and it is a bear to do correctly, not only because of the langour of the tempi and the absolute necessity of symmetry throughout, but the style is not truly Romantic, but the first of the Neo-Romantics!

#5 mussel

mussel

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 475 posts

Posted 29 May 2001 - 09:45 PM

I get it confused with "La Sylphide," which was performed last year at the Met. According the ABT's site, "Les Sylphides" still in ABT's repertory.

#6 Drew

Drew

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,266 posts

Posted 29 May 2001 - 11:00 PM

Without a doubt the performances by the Kirov at Wolftrap and Kennedy Center in the eighties were by far and away the most beautiful of this ballet that I have ever seen. I vaguely remember that people who saw the Kirov do it in the sixties grumped that it wasn't as good as in "the old days" -- but I found the eighties performances ravishing. It is not, I think, a coincidence that one of my absolute favorite Baryshnikov performances was his performance as the poet in this ballet -- he seemed at one with the music and at one with the whole atmosphere of the ballet in a way that (in my opinion) only occasionally characterized his other interpretations. I have always felt that it was a role which he danced as if he was drawing with real love and dedication on the great Kirov tradition in this ballet, a tradition for which it had not become a languid chestnut, but remained a really compelling distillation -- in its way, a modern(ist) image -- of the "romantic" ballet. (Exactly as Mel Johson writes "neo-romantic.") What the ballet means to today's "Maryinsky" I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to...so it's my turn to bewail "the old days." In the Kirov peformances that I saw at Kennedy Center, I specifically remember admiring Zhana Ayupova in the Prelude...But everyone was wonderful.

P.S. If I'm not mistaken, ABT traditionally did the ballet as Fokine last set it; the Kirov's version is a bit different and I think (??) that as director of ABT Baryshnikov had them dance the version he knew and took some criticism for it. What I loved about the Kirov version, however, was the way they danced it, not this or that detail in the setting. If ABT were to revive it now, I think it should stick with the version that belongs to its own history, and also gives Fokine's last thoughts.

[ 05-30-2001: Message edited by: Drew ]

#7 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,248 posts

Posted 30 May 2001 - 12:13 AM

Drew, I think you're right about the controversy over Baryshnikov's version -- I believe it was his (the Poet's) solos that had been changed in Russia.

Supposedly, every version of this ballet is a little bit different, because Fokine was an inveterate tinkerer. Not surprisingly, I agree with Drew that: "If ABT were to revive it now, I think it should stick with the version that belongs to its own history, and also gives Fokine's last thoughts."

There's a very interesting section in Charles Payne's ABT book that discusses the style of "Les Sylphides" that helped me understand why the "oldtimers" when I started seeing the ballet felt that it had deteriorated. I would often hear, "They dance it as though it's second act 'Swan Lake.'" I think this is one of the naturally occurring aspects of balletic erosion -- unless it's stopped by a coach or director. Everything "old" gets lumped together in the "old" bin. "Romantic" and "Neo-Romantic" become blended. Fokine's soft arms and curly line (and curved lines, in the choreography) become straightened to be "Petipa's" straight line (for the dancer) and straight lines and diagonals (for the choreography). And so when audiences say that "all those ballets look alike," they're not wrong -- but it doesn't have to be that way.

#8 doug

doug

    Bronze Circle

  • Editorial Advisor
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 324 posts

Posted 30 May 2001 - 12:59 AM

Alexandra, you are so right about the "old" ballets starting to look the same but that they needn't. I see this over and over in my work with old notations of ballets. They each had a certain character and, in my opinion, Petipa's choreography, for example, was much, MUCH more creative than we might now think.

#9 Alexandra

Alexandra

    Board Founder

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 9,248 posts

Posted 30 May 2001 - 09:27 AM

Doug, I thoroughly agree with you. I understand why the smoothing over in subsequent generations happens, but it could be prevented if the people running ballet companies wanted to do so :) (I put "Petipa's" in quotes in my post because I doubt that his line was as sharp and angular as we make it today.)

Your post could start a new topic -- would you do that? I'm sure there were obvious stylistic distinctions not only between Petipa ballets -- "Sleeping Beauty" and "Swan Lake" once looked very different -- but WITHIN the ballets (the distinction among character, classical and demicaractere dancing). Most people going to the ballet today would have no way of knowing about these differences -- could you give us a few examples (on another thread, something like, Petipa's Ballets, or style, or whatever you'd like.)

#10 Herman Stevens

Herman Stevens

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 294 posts

Posted 06 February 2004 - 08:14 AM

Hi,

I'm breathing some brief life into this old thread just to say I'm a total sucker for Les Sylphides. Recently I purchased the ABT dvd mentioned above, and I just have to keep myself from watching it twice a day.

Even the music is fascinating. Who ever thought of turning the rather cynical A flat Nocturne into a dreamy prelude? And the orchestration of the C# minor Waltz is just so wonderful.

One of the reasons I got the Barysh dvd is I have kind of given up on seeing this piece ever again. Ages ago, when I was a kid, me and my mother (who used to run a school) saw a Sylphides and that was it, apparently.

I saw La Sylphide recently (great part for Larissa Lezhnina), I saw Robbins' The Concerto - so the inspiration and the satirical commentary seem to be in circulation. No Fokine, however.

Perhaps Les Sylphides is out of fashion* not just because it's very hard to do right, while it looks easy, but also because it's impossible to pin down what it is about? To me that's perhaps the biggest fascination of all. It's completely elusive. In fact one might say that's what it's about.

Herman

*There is very little talk about it on these boards, too.

#11 Paul Parish

Paul Parish

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,925 posts

Posted 06 February 2004 - 07:28 PM

Oakland Ballet did it quite beautifully a few seasons back -- Lara Deans Lowe, was really beautiful as the girl who does hte penchee upstage left while hte pas de deux couple cross down front. The boy wawn
t great -- but few do have the depth of fonduthat Baryshnikov (and he young Nureyev) had, that makes that part so distinctively soft -- the jumps don't go high, but hte landing should go very low. THe Kirov in their recent visit made hte boy's part way too heroic, it was not beautiful. and indeed, the corps hardly seemed to be breathing, except for Pavlenko nobody else did either (she was wonderful).

THere was a little dancer, whose name I CAN'T remember, and it kills me, for she was SO beautiful in hte prelude, I can't tell you, how airy she seemed, it was ALL breath, so soft, so melting....

(PS Nobody has mentioned the Royal Ballet video, with FOnteyn and Nureyev and I think Merle Park in hte mazurka, but it's really wonderful, VEY musical dancing.)

#12 Mel Johnson

Mel Johnson

    Diamonds Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,311 posts

Posted 06 February 2004 - 07:41 PM

One of the real disgraces is that ABT holds an exclusivity on the ballet for performance in NYC, spiked another company (Ballet Nacional de Cuba) who tried to present it in NY, then didn't schedule it for this year's season. The worst kind of dog-in-the-manger behavior. We would discuss it a lot more if it were performed more, and ABT didn't help us.

#13 Paul Parish

Paul Parish

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,925 posts

Posted 06 February 2004 - 10:41 PM

Amen, Brother Mel! It's the truth. ANd since the Cuban Ballet's version was bound to be remarkable, both in execution and style -- not to mention commitment -- there would have been SOME DISCUSSION!!... I was looking forward to the espnses, even though I live on the west coast and wouldn't have had a chance to see the ballet itself.

#14 Memo

Memo

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 141 posts

Posted 13 April 2004 - 10:00 AM

I have segments of it on a Documentary of Fonteyn and Nureyev that I taped. It showed some corps sections the Prelude and the Pas de deux. It is so beautifully done and just gives you a taste of stylistically how it needs to be approached. I think it is extremely difficult for todays technicaians and bravura dancers to pull of a true and authentic Les Syllphide. (agh I cannot spell today) Forgive me. :D


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):