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Kobborg La Sylphide (returning)


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Atlanta Ballet has brought back Johan Kobborg's La Sylphide--i gather he tweaks his version for different companies, and it's not identical, say, to what I have seen of his production for the Bolshoi in its broadcasts (broadcasts now a thing of the past, for the United States at least). As he wrote for the program notes: "I love the fact that you can grow and develop as an artist over time and change the way you think of and perform the roles within this ballet. I still make small changes to characters and some of my own choreographic additions, as it is important that the piece works for the specific company and its individual dancers. They are the ones that need to bring the piece to life and make sense of the story and its characters."

I thought it was an excellent production back when I saw it in winter 2019 and confirmed that opinion today at the Sunday matinee. (Madge is...well...MADGE in this version not explicitly set up to suggest she is some fallen sylph. She does still spit on James explicitly and loudly at the ballet's end; Just pantomime would be fine with me.) 

Sets/Costumes, though, have changed: last go round borrowing (or renting) from ABT, Atlanta used Desmond Heeley's designs. At the time I didn't realize it was ABT's old production and can laugh at myself NOW for how much I liked the design ('Why this looks EXACTLY the way I picture La Sylphide'--uh...naturally because that was the production stored in my memory banks). This go round they used sets by Søren Frandsen and costumes by Henrik Bloch--designed, I infer, for the Royal Danish Ballet. (The program notes indicate they had designed Sylphide for RDB  so I'm guessing that's what Atlanta is using...) Anyway, a very handsome and evocative, traditional, production.  This is the Scotland of Walter Scott's novels. In some spots, I thought the lighting could have been better and in particular I would have liked a spotlight on the Sylph as she floats up to heaven at the end.

I wrote about the production in some detail when it premiered; I will just say here it is traditional in all the best ways -- and still fresh looking and alive. I thought the company looked great in Act I--the audience cheered loudly at the end of the Scottish Reel and the cheers were very deserved. The classical dancing in Act II exposed a little unevenness in the corps maybe, but they did well overall. (Shoes were kind of noisy.) I give the dancers kudos & Kobborg and Nedvigin kudos on preparing them. The leads (Airi Igarashi and Sergio Masero) and the soloists were all, to my eyes, excellent, especially Airi Igarashi as the Sylph. As it happens Igarashi and Masero danced the performance I saw  of this production in 2019. I think both have matured. She especially seems to me to have developed beautifully and, today, she brought more convincing pathos to the Sylph's death than I remember from the earlier performance and generally not only danced wonderfully but captured the Sylph's quicksilver changes in mood. I quite liked the Gurn, too, Spencer Wetherington--though Mr. Drew complained that he was too tall and good looking-and even danced too well in his solo (!)-to be the goofy guy for whom Effie merely settles--so, perhaps there is a James in his future. (I see in his bio that he studied in Moscow at the Bolshoi Academy.) When I last saw the company in Fall 2019, Mikaela Santos had just joined and was already a favorite of mine from her performances when she was still an apprentice, so I was very pleased that she was cast as Effie and I loved her performance--expressive in her character dancing, touching in her mime. I gather she has danced Kitri in the company's Don Quixote -- I wasn't yet returning to the theater at that point -- but I'm hoping to catch her in big roles in the future. Spit notwithstanding, I also enjoyed Georgie Grace Butler's Madge. From all the dancers I found the mime clear and believable. I did wonder if it was a concession to local mores that the young woman who learns she is pregnant from Madge, is happy about it and rushes to share her joy with a Kilted man on stage who is, presumably, meant to be her husband. (I have always seen her slink away fearful and teary eyed--even as the audience laughs. So how is it done in Denmark?)

The company performs at the Cobb Energy Center--it's a drive Mr. Drew and I can't make at night so I missed alternate casts including Emily Carrico, Denys Nedak, and, for one Saturday night performance Kobborg himself as Madge. Having seen Bruhn as Madge back in the day I would love to have seen Kobborg as a very nice bookend to my Sylphide experiences. If the company could do something to make it easier to get to/from the theater -- shuttles to more central locations in the Atlanta area? -- then maybe I could expand my Atlanta Ballet going.

Edited by Drew
spelling error/factual adjustment
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