la Sylphide

Too perfect for this world.

La Sylphide, the ballet created  by tenor Adolphe Nourrit is set in a village in Scotland. James is engaged to Effie, a local girl. The day of the wedding James is haunted and seduced by a sylphide; an ethereal spirit which only he can see. James falls onto the    sylphide´s charm and follows her to the forest, interrupting his wedding. The sylph shows James her world in the forest, and he proclaims his love for her. The sylph avoids his grasp since she is a spirit of the air and she will die if touched. Desperate, James takes a veil from Madge (a witch with evil intentions) and is advised to use it to capture the sylphide. When he finally captures her, the   sylphide´s wings fall off and she dies.

Adolphe Nourrit brought this ballet to Filippo Taglioni, master of the Paris Opera Ballet. He choreographed it and casted his daughter the great Marie Taglioni as the sylphide in 1832. Marie Taglioni gained most of her prestige from this role. In 1836 August Bournoville choreographed his own version of La Sylphide, which is the most popular nowadays.

Taglioni is famous for what is thought to be the beginning of pointe work in the history of ballet. Before her many dancers had been going up to the very tips of their toes, but doing it merely as a trick. Marie incorporated this "pointe work" into her dancing but in a subtle, elegant and elevated way. Pointe work back then would be what it is today a really high relevé, almost on pointe but not quite. At this time they did not have modern day pointe shoes, instead they used softer satin shoes.

La Sylphide is commonly known as a revolutionary ballet because it brought Romanticism to the stage.  It is a great example of the emotions and ideologies of the Romantic Period. The unattainable love, the longing for a higher world, and the communion between nature and man.

This is my favorite picture overall, I have given it different meanings. The death of the sylph, maybe how she left the dress that made her visible to the human world, or simply what is left of her. For the entire season I have been perplexed with the idea that sylphides should not be able to die since they are spirits. I finally found a different point of view that gave me some peace of mind. A french Abbé named Montfaucon de Villars stated that " sylphides were made of pure atoms of air and yet they were mortal; the elements of which they were composed could decompose". 

Preparing the stage for Act I.

Today we have the last La Sylphide performance of the season. It is a beautiful ballet in the studio but once it is all set in the glorious Palacio de Bellas Artes´ stage it all changes. The lightning, scenery, and costume designs really bring out the best of each dancer while transporting the audience to a different world.

Dancer Sonia Jimenez in a pre-performance shoot with photographer Carlos Quezada.

Sylphides are less than angels but more than men, enemies of the Devil and servantes of God, according to Montfaucon de Villars.

Sylphs gazing at the earthly world.

Hope you enjoyed it and it would be great if you could come watch us perform this beautiful ballet. Your comments are always welcome!


All photos by Greta Elizondo