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Les Sylphides


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#16 Paul Parish

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Posted 07 April 2002 - 08:17 PM

Mel, I wish I'd seen you dance this role -- sounds like you hav hte feeling AND the build for it --

i wishI'd seen you dance, period...

you know, Nijinsky himself was not a tall, classically poportioned dancer. On the contrary, he was a short dancer with bulky muscles, but with a long neck and a fantastic way of carrying his head and arms, a wonderful ability to pull his lines in hte air, and (well, I guess) a poetic nature.....

#17 Natalia

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 10:02 AM

I'm resurrecting this thread in anticipation of a week's worth of Chopinianas (Les Sylphides) danced by the Mariinsky at the Kennedy Center, beginning tonight.

It's hard to believe that this was once one of the the most favorite ballets among the public and used to be the opener for every ABT season not so long ago.

Where does Chopiniana/Sylphides fall in you top list of favorites...or does it even make a blip on the radar screen in 2012, a little over 100 years after its premiere? I've always found great satisfaction in this ballet - pure dance, pure beauty. However, almost all recent versions that I've seen live (ABT, Kirov-Mar or Bolshoi) take it verrrrry s-l-o-wwwwwwwwly.

Which of the two male mazurkas do you prefer? I love the 'non-Soviet' male variation that, at present, exists on commercial film only in the recent Australia Ballet-Diaghilev Centennial airing (Yosvani Ramos as the Poet). [I also love how the Australians dance it in a mostly-brisk tempo, with exception of the pas de deux, which should be slow.]

p.s. - I take it back - the 'western' Male Mazurka can also be seen in the recent 'DVD reissue' of the BBC-1953 edition with John Field as the Poet (version that also stars Alicia Markova)...but I prefer Yosvani Ramos - another 'Nijinsky-esque' short dancer with bulky muscles. Nureyev dances the Soviet mazurka in the 1960s Royal Ballet version with Fonteyn.

#18 Birdsall

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 12:34 PM

I didn't think I would like Sylphides, b/c I thought, "How could an abstract Sylphides be better than the original La Sylphide (different ballet altogether)? Sounds silly!" But then I saw the Nureyev version that I got from Netflix and then two others, and now I LOVE this ballet! It is truly gorgeous. I like it better with the crumbling castle as opposed to a Kirov version with a pastoral scene. Since they are spirits, a nighttime haunted atmosphere seems better.

#19 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 01:59 AM

Chopiniana is a ballet that I would pick over EVERY single ballet-(with the only exception of Giselle)-in the event of being asked. It is also in my very earliest memories of watching ballet, as it has been performed non stopping every single year in Cuba since 1948. I haven't seen it live ever since I left the island, and I really mourn this fact. It is just a masterpiece of a ballet...everything that I can ask from the art form. What a pity that it is missing from many ballet companies repertoire...

#20 Natalia

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 04:58 AM

Sylphides/Chopiniana officially enters my pantheon of ballets after last night's extraordinarily beautiful performance at the Kenn Center....making up for merely-ok Firebird and a mostly-mediocre Scheherazade. Yet again, Chopiniana saved the day!

#21 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 05:15 PM

Sylphides/Chopiniana officially enters my pantheon of ballets after last night's extraordinarily beautiful performance at the Kenn Center....making up for merely-ok Firebird and a mostly-mediocre Scheherazade. Yet again, Chopiniana saved the day!


Welcome to the "Chop. club" troupe, Natasha! Posted Image I'm Cristian, commander in chief.Posted Image

#22 Natalia

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 08:01 AM

Thanks, Cristian! I'm honored and Chop'ed!

#23 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 09:29 AM

Let's compare a bit how is Chopiniana treated by...

The Russians...


The British...


The Cubans...


#24 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 03:32 AM

I've been thinking on the general approval from this site posters of Balanchine's latter versions of some of his ballets and improvements made as a result of his "less is best" position toward the end of his creative process, and how I percieve the opposite phenomenom regarding Chopiniana, where the fluffier the skirts, the more affected and stiff the poses, the whiter the makeup and the redder the lips, the better the ballet looks. I even like a lot the gothic-inspired ruins from the Fonteyn/Nureyev video. Definitely, with Les Sylphides, more is best.

#25 Natalia

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 04:18 AM

Cubanmiamiboy, the history of the different backdrops is a story unto itself! Today's Mariinsky reproduces the ca-1908 Corot-like autumnal trees backdrop by Orest Allegri, a great scenic designer of the Imperial Theaters. The "west" (UK, USA, etc.) is more familiar with the darker "church and cemetery ruins" backdrop that was designed by Alexander Benois for the Diaghilev company and subsequently 'kept' by post-Diaghilev Ballets Russes ventures...which toured all over the west. Back home in Petersburg-Leningrad, the set known to audiences has always been the Allegri one. I personally prefer the Allegri, as the Benois is too Giselle-like and, to me, Chopiniana should evoke very different feelings than does Giselle.

#26 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 06:16 AM

Cubanmiamiboy, the history of the different backdrops is a story unto itself! Today's Mariinsky reproduces the ca-1908 Corot-like autumnal trees backdrop by Orest Allegri, a great scenic designer of the Imperial Theaters. The "west" (UK, USA, etc.) is more familiar with the darker "church and cemetery ruins" backdrop that was designed by Alexander Benois for the Diaghilev company and subsequently 'kept' by post-Diaghilev Ballets Russes ventures...which toured all over the west. Back home in Petersburg-Leningrad, the set known to audiences has always been the Allegri one. I personally prefer the Allegri, as the Benois is too Giselle-like and, to me, Chopiniana should evoke very different feelings than does Giselle.


Ah, Natasha...and you just got a point that has flirted with my head forever..! Every time I watch Giselle's second act, I have this wild thought about being able to watch the whole Sylphides right in the middle of it, which would make for a looooong and beautiful romantic ballet night. Can you imagine...? The would be NO NEED to alter a second of Fokine's choreography..! Posted Image

#27 Natalia

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 06:25 AM

Indeed...except that the sylphides in the Fokine are so much sweeter in nature than those evil Wilis of Giselle. In fact, that was one of my problems with Oxana Skorik in Chopinina this past week at the Kennedy Center -- that her angry face and attack made her appear as if she were a wili! (She softened her attack & look, if not the ugly jumps and positions, in her 2nd KennCen performance of Sylphides/Chopiniana.)

#28 Kerry1968

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 11:33 PM

I didn't think I would like Sylphides, b/c I thought, "How could an abstract Sylphides be better than the original La Sylphide (different ballet altogether)? Sounds silly!" But then I saw the Nureyev version that I got from Netflix and then two others, and now I LOVE this ballet! It is truly gorgeous. I like it better with the crumbling castle as opposed to a Kirov version with a pastoral scene. Since they are spirits, a nighttime haunted atmosphere seems better.


I love the ballet too, although I have always thought the sylphs in Les Sylphides were only incidentally sylphs. That is to say, I think Fokine is evoking Marie Taglioni as the Sylph, rather than the Sylph itself, and that the ballerina's task isn't to channel Sylphiness so much as it's to channel Taglioni-ness.

Going along with that, I have always liked a certain artifice (ie lack of naturalism) in Les Sylphides stagings. Either woods or castle-ruins are fine, because both are appropriately Romantic settings. However, I think the main thing about the mise-en-scene is that the stagings should NOT be naturalistic. The audience should not be transported to woods or castle ruins, but rather to the 19th century theatre.

Just my 2 cents.

#29 sandik

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 12:02 AM

The audience should not be transported to woods or castle ruins, but rather to the 19th century theatre.

Just my 2 cents.


I think you've put your finger on an important aspect of the work here.

#30 Birdsall

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 05:05 AM


I didn't think I would like Sylphides, b/c I thought, "How could an abstract Sylphides be better than the original La Sylphide (different ballet altogether)? Sounds silly!" But then I saw the Nureyev version that I got from Netflix and then two others, and now I LOVE this ballet! It is truly gorgeous. I like it better with the crumbling castle as opposed to a Kirov version with a pastoral scene. Since they are spirits, a nighttime haunted atmosphere seems better.



Going along with that, I have always liked a certain artifice (ie lack of naturalism) in Les Sylphides stagings. Either woods or castle-ruins are fine, because both are appropriately Romantic settings. However, I think the main thing about the mise-en-scene is that the stagings should NOT be naturalistic. The audience should not be transported to woods or castle ruins, but rather to the 19th century theatre.

Just my 2 cents.


There does seem to be a certain humor (not comedy but lightness) to some of the music and dancing, so I think you're right. It does sort of say, "Don't take me too seriously, but enjoy....."


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