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glebb

Where is "La Sylphide"?

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While reading a thread about Bournonville, I started wondering where his masterpiece "La Sylphide" is being performed these days, and who are the great Sylphs of today?

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she's having a good long nap, I think.

"La Sylphide" is out of repertory in Copenhagen this season. I think it will be brought back next season -- or perhaps the one after. There has been speculation on who will stage it, and I'll wait to comment until the announcement has been made.

I think the company is between Syphs at the moment -- Jeppesen is retired. Schandorff was a magnicient Sylph, but not a traditional one. I didn't see Gad enough to tell if she, as the Danish critics like to write, "grew into the role." She has everything for it, but was doing a bad Makarova imitation when I last saw her, a decade ago. I haven't seen the young Sylph-most-likely (Gudrun Boesen) and the dark horse candidate (Tina Hojlund, the most musical of the current female dancers for many) is unlikely to get the chance.

ABT has a very carelessly staged version of the old Harald Lander production that's accurate -- at least much more accurate than Schaufuss's, which pops up here and there occasionally.

I haven't seen the production for the National Ballet of China which got enormous publicity (and very engineered publicity) in Copenhagen, but I spoke with many of the Danish dancers who saw it, and although they admired the Chinese dancers -- "It's amazing how much of it they got," as one put it -- they felt the video antecedents, shall we say, of the production were all too visible.

Every Sylph I've seen outside of Denmark -- American or Russian (in galas only) has been doing Giselle rather than the Sylph, to me, so I don't give any votes there.

We're short on Jameses, too, although one of the greatest Madges of all time (Sorella Englund) is around, should anyone ask her to do the role.

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It's a great ballet, but I think it takes real effort to transplant it.

I got to see the ballet ca. 1984 with Bujones as James, Gregory Osborne as Gurn, Lisa Rinehart as Effy and Erik Bruhn as Madge - I can't even recall the Sylph, but probably Marianna Tcherkassky. Still, I'd have to say I never really saw the ballet until I saw it at the most recent Bournonville Festival as well and would second Alexandra's comments. Schandorff is very fine, but unorthodox, Englund was the best thing about the Festival for me. Mats Blangstrup could have been an even better James than he was; it looked like he hadn't gotten any real coaching and he still was very moving in Act II. Hojlund was in this cast, but as Effy, and she was quite good. Unfortunately, that was only one cast, the second cast was far more problematic.

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Gelsey Kirkland was far from conventional in any respect, and would probabably not be considered a Bournonville stylist, yet her Sylph lives on in my memory as one of the most stunning things I've seen on any stage, anywhere, at any time. I'm fortunate enough to be a short walk away from the Dance Research Collection, where anyone can see the bootleg 28-year-old films of her Sylph, which, though grainy and silent, still attest to that fact.

I'll never forget her breathtaking jetes across the front of the stage during the reel (the audiences would gasp), leaving one with an indelible final image of her flying into the wings while gracing James with an imploring and flirty come-hither glace over her shoulder at the very height of her final jete. I imagine Bournonville would not have approved, and I don't particularly care.

I managed to miss ABT's most-recent go-round with La Sylphide (they programmed it against NYCB's Liebeslieder Walzer -- such cruel choices one must make in this city). I'm not sure any of their current dancers would make a good Sylph (if they ever give it to Reyes I'm bringing a flyswatter to the theater). I suppose Ananiashvili could make it work through her great dramatic skill, although her punchy style is about as far from Bournonville as one could get. Kent might be nice, or might be overly saccharine. I think Ferri would be lovely but I don't think she's got the technique for it anymore (if she ever had it).

Actually, I'm running through ABT's roster of current female principals and soloists, and either groaning or shuddering when imagining them as the Sylph.

(Maybe Kevin could engage Matthew Bourne to make an all-male La Sylphide? God knows ABT has enough guys who can jump!)

I'm not conversant enough with foreign dancers to hazard much of an opinion, but I think Cocaraju might be quite lovely with the right coaching.

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Matthew Bourne, all male "La Sylphide"?

PLEASE NO!

I wont even go there!!!!!

Toni Lander, Violette Verdy, Gelsey Kirkland, Marianna Tcherkasky and my Goddess Natalia Makarova were all beautiful Sylphs.

For me Eva Evdokimova seemed to walk right out of the lithograph. She had gorgeous 'Romantic Era' line, ballon and just the right playful quality of the Sylph. Most of all she seemed to really float (while tossing off amazingly hard technical feats), IMHO.

It would be wonderful if Alexandra would point out what their strong and weak points might have been. I hope to have a better understanding of Bournonville after reading her new book.

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Glebb, I think I'm probably not the best person to comment, but thank you :) I've come to believe that, outside of Denmark, everyone uses the Bournonville version as a proxy for what they'd like to think the old French version was. I loved Kirkland, and liked Makarova, and Tcherkassky, but they were dancing some American-Russian version.

The Bournonville version has nothing to do with the Taglioni lithographs. Not that they're not pretty, but they're not Bournonville. Evdokimova did care about the Bournonville style, and I have a vague memory (I saw her before I really knew the Danish version) of footwork that matches pictures I have in my head of the way it's been danced in Denmark.

Not saying that these Sylphs aren't lovable in their own way. And please remember this the first time you all see the Biker Concerto Barocco. :)

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Lucky readers will definitely get a good idea of what Bournonville tradition means from Alexandra's book, but really, you have to see it to begin to understand it. When I first saw the Royal Danes do "Konservatoriet", it was a revelation. When I saw them do La Sylphide, it was an epiphany! The more I saw, the better I understood, and the better I understood, the better I liked!:)

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The Kirov and The Bolshoi are both doing it this season.

The Kirov's version was staged in 1981 by Elsa-Marianna fon Rosen (sp?) and was then transferred (with amendments/excisions?) to Moscow by Vinogradov

Ayupova is a wonderful Sylph, but I haven't seen many others, so it's hard to tell.

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I've always wanted to see the Kirov in La Sylphide, which they only dance in St. Petersburg but seldom on overseas tours. This season at the Maryinsky Anton Korsakov has danced La Sylphide with Elena Sheshina, as well as a guest dancer from Japan.

http://www.mariinsky.ru/en/playbill/20021027-2

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matthew Bourne has already made his own version of La Sylphide, called Highland Fling, and I don't imagine he'd want to do another one. (It did not owe much to Bournonville.)

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There are many times when I am grateful that Bournonville has kept so low a profile. I sometimes imagine him, back there 150 years ago saying, "No, better not put too much dancing in them. If I do, other companies will want to stage them and I'll be ruined, ruined!"

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Does anyone know anything about the National Ballet of Washington 'La Sylphide'?

Who staged it? Who designed it? Where are the sets and costumes now?

I loved Frederic Franklin as Madge.

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I forgot to mention in my earlier posting that the National Ballet of China has an excellent production of La Sylphide staged for them several years ago by Frank Anderson. I saw it twice when they toured Hong Kong in 2000. I remember that the Chinese company was meant to tour America with this production last year, but the tour was cancelled after the Sept. 11 tragedy.

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Glebb, the NBW production was by Elsa Marianne von Rosen. I have no idea where the sets and costumes are now, I'm afraid. I have many friends who loved this production; I haven't seen it. Again, my Danish sources (by these, I mean Danes who have staged the ballet, are the ones who are most familiar with it, have grown up with it and know the old notebooks) do not admire it and, as with Schaufuss's production, can go through it, step by step, and tell you why.

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It was a very long time ago and I was very new to ballet, so NBW's version has always been my favorite. It seemed closer to my video of Royal Danish Ballet than my video of English National Ballet's version.

What are these notebooks? Bournonville's notations?

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The notebooks were written down in the 1930s by Valborg Borchsenius, who had been Hans Beck's partner (turn of the last century). According to Theatre lore, she stalked into rehearsals when Lander began staging Bournonville ballets because she didn't trust him to stage them properly.

Borchsenius had never worked with Bournonville, but had made notes from working with Beck (the first great Bournonville stager). She kept them in a sewing basket -- just little pieces of paper. During rehearsals with Lander, she would rummage around and pull out a note or two to make a correction. Lander urged her to write them down, and she did. So "The Notebooks" are 50 years post-Bournonville, and Hans Brenaa would sometimes put in something that he remembered from his childhood that wasn't in the notebooks -- always a tiny detail, usually mime.

If you're interested in the history of Bournonville stagings, may I humbly refer you to my articles about this that are now available on line:

Bournonville in Hell

A series of three articles outlining the posthumous performance history of Bournonville's ballets in Denmark from 1879 to 1992, the tragic events that befell those works after that time, their current condition, and a gloomy prognosis for their future. These articles were originally published in DanceView magazine. A shortened, two-part version was published in the British quarterly Dance Now, under the titles "Bournonville in Hell" (Spring 1998) and "The Mermaid's Head" (Summer 1998).

http://www.danceview.org/archives/bournonv...ille/hells.html

I should also add that there really isn't much about Bournonville style, per se, in the Kronstam biography, although you will be able to get information about it from comments the dancers make, I think. It's more about the tradition generally -- the training, the school in its broadest sense.

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Thank you Alexandra!

I look forward to reading them.

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Just today, I discovered a 'La Sylphide' tape I didn't know I had. It was performed by the Pennsylvania & Milwaukee Ballet staged by Peter Martins, assisted by Solveig Ostergaad. The principles were Melissa Podcasy and Marin Boieru, and Madge by Edward Myers. (I never like seeing a man in this role--it always seems too campy). My impression was that it was a bit beyond the talents of the aforementioned.

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I remember that one -- I don't think it will go down as one of the great stagings, either :)

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I thought Myers' Madge was all right, but I can see why some Danes don't like the role performed by a man. A standout in that somewhat indifferent staging was Jeffrey Gribler as Gurn, though.

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I think the Madge gender problem is one of those that it depends on who you saw first. There are diehard Niels Bjorn Larsen fans in Denmark (and here), and those who can't imagine anyone other than Englund -- and, long before her or Larsen, Gerda Karstens.

(The first Madge was a man, the second, in the 1860s in Copenhagen, was a woman. The costume sketch for the first production shows a young woman.)

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Does anyone know if the variation danced by Evdokimova in Act II of the ENB version, after she catches the butterfly and just before her sisters enter this particular area of the forest, is Bournonville? If not, who choreographed it?

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