Erica De La O in “La Sylphide”. Photo-Wade Bell
Choreography by Auguste Bournonville
Staged by the Louisville Ballet Artistic Staff
Music by Hermann Løvenskjold
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Before the curtain is raised the overture of La Sylphide, composed by Hermann Løvenskjold, allows the listener a glimpse into the Scottish influence of dark and light. Of real and ethereal. Love and evil. From the use of the winds of the familiar bagpipes to the hollow pangs of the strings my anticipation swells for the dancers to take the stage.
We are greeted by a charming farmhouse in Scotland and sitting in his comfortable chair by the fireplace is James (Kristopher Wojtera) and behind him La Sylphide (Erica De La O), beautifully illuminated by artistic lighting and her ravishing tutu, which in most Romantic style ballets, is longer and flowing. James is dreaming of La Sylphide and wakes to find her there as she dances with carefree glee while James tries to capture her and just as soon as the chase begins, La Sylphide disappears; a nod to the Louisville Ballet for the clever way in which she does it.
Effie (Leigh Anne Albrechta), James’ fiancée enters and is embraced by James believing her to be La Sylphide. Effie scolds James for not loving her, but reassures her that he does in a very lovely bravura. Every time I watch Mr. Wojtera I am moved by his athleticism and love for his art.
Yes, the wedding is still on!! James, in the presence of Effie’s girlfriends and family begins to present his lovely bride with the family tartan, signifying their union, only to be distracted by Madge, the old fortuneteller (Helen Daigle), only to be asked to leave, but Effie wants her fortune told. Each friend approaches and fortunes are read as well as Effie’s to which Madge tells her that she will not marry James, but Gurn, Effie’s long suffering suitor (Rob Morrow). She doesn’t believe the old witch but Madge reads Gurn’s as well and she confirms his to read the same. While Madge is reading James is distracted by shadows, believing them to be La Sylphide, but is brought back to reality when he hears Madge’s predictions and throws her out but she curses him and swears vengeance.
As Effie leaves to prepare for the wedding, La Sylphide appears at the window and declares her love for James and begins to dance convincing James to run away with her. Ms. De La O’s ability to be en pointe for a great portion of the solo dance is truly inspiring. She absolutely glides across the stage as if her feet were off the ground. Gurn witnesses the couple and runs off to let Effie know and La Sylphide disappears once again. When they come to check out Gurn’s story no one believes that James was alone and the wedding guests appear and one of the best grand pas d’action that I have seen in a long time takes place as the ensemble (wedding guests) partake in a beautiful social dance, despite a few times where synchronization was a bit off. As the dancing and celebration continue James sees La Sylphide once more and takes the wedding ring as she and James run into the forest followed by the guests as Effie collapses in tears.
In Act II we see the enchanted forest that La Sylphide and her other Sylphs live. But within this beauty lives Madge and her sisters who conjure a magical scarf. James continues to look for his beautiful and elusive fairy but she is always out of reach. All the while Gurn and the wedding guests are on the hunt for James. While on the hunt Gurn discovers James’ hat and Madge appears and convinces him to leave the search and she will help to convince Effie to marry him.
While in pursuit of La Sylphide James also runs into Madge and begs her help to locate his beloved fairy. She agrees and tells James to drape the scarf around La Sylphide and they will be united.
The beautiful fairy appears once again, along with her sisters and another exquisite grand pas d’action begins. All I can say is it was beauty. The sound of their feet dancing across the Whitney Hall stage sounded like the beating of wings, which brought this production to an even more endearing place. James and La Sylphide perform a gorgeous pas de deux and James wraps the scarf around her, just as Madge instructed.
La Sylphide retracts in pain and her wings fall from her body. She returns the wedding ring to James and dies. James looks past the forest and sees the wedding processional of Effie and Gurn. With great sadness he collapses onto the forest floor while Madge reveals that she has been avenged and her laughter rings throughout the woods.
The professionalism of this group of dancers is fantastic. It takes great skill to tell a story using hand gestures and body language this succinctly. I give special kudos to Helen Daigle’s Madge as her twisted form was not how we are used to seeing her and she delivered the role of the witch with great verve.
It had been 10 years since this Bournonville classic was last performed at the Louisville Ballet. I hope that it doesn’t take too long to make it back again.
February 21-22, 2014
Whitney Hall, Kentucky Center
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202