La Sylphide: romantic ballet at its best

August 15, 2013

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La Sylphide: romantic ballet at its best

Be swept away with fairies, witches and tutus in this lavish double bill

Kevin Jackson and Madeleine Eastoe in La Sylphide. Photography Georges Antoni

Kevin Jackson and Madeleine Eastoe in La Sylphide. Photography Georges Antoni

Fall in love with the magic of ballet with La Sylphide. This sublime program brings you two heavenly ballets — Erik Bruhn’s La Sylphide and Marius Petipa’s Paquita – in a thoroughly enchanting double bill.

La Sylphide opens at the Sydney Opera House from 7 November for 20 performances.

The works bookend ballet’s Romantic period, a time that was defined by a preoccupation with otherworldly tales and supernatural myths.

La Sylphide revolutionised the art form in 1836 by popularising the use of pointe shoes, while Paquita appeared at the end of the era in 1847 and demonstrates ballet’s rapid evolution. In that relatively brief time, the period produced some of ballet’s most enduring works, including Giselle and Coppélia.

The Romantic period also heralded a new era for the ballerina, with pointe work dramatically altering the art form. Artists who used the new technique, such as the dancer Marie Taglioni, the daughter of Romantic choreographer and original La Sylphide creator Filippo Taglioni, became overnight stars.

The Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, David McAllister, says this program is a unique opportunity to experience Romantic ballet in its traditional glory.

“These two ballets are a glimpse into a pivotal era for ballet and their beauty is that they remain largely untouched from their original state. La Sylphide is an irresistible mix of fairies and men in kilts, while Paquita is a ballet fireworks display, with a stage bursting with gold-flecked tutus and tiaras – the perfect night of exquisite escape,” said McAllister.

La Sylphide

Scottish dreamer James is fascinated by a woodland sprite he encounters on the eve of his wedding. He spurns his fiancée Effie to follow the Sylph. Intent on capturing the ethereal beauty for his own, he accepts the help of the vengeful witch Madge, who leads him to his downfall.

Despite the tale’s simplicity, there is a profound underlying moral – those who become obsessed with the unattainable lose everything real and good.

La Sylphide has been constantly in the repertoire of ballet companies since its inception. It has been revived and tweaked countless times, but the bones of August Bournonville’s choreography and intent remain, making it a must-see for lovers of classical ballet.


Balancing the beauty of La Sylphide is Marius Petipa’s glittering party piece Paquita. A chance for our dancers to flaunt their most elegant technique, the Grand Pas excerpt is an exhilarating procession of fancy footwork and gravity-defying leaps and a fitting showpiece for both the male and female dancers.

Petipa is widely considered the most influential ballet choreographer who ever lived. Among the 60 full-length ballets he produced in his time are  Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and  The Nutcracker. Petipa first staged  Paquita in Russia in 1847, where he also debuted in the main male role. This work remains challenging for today’s dancers, more than a century and a half later.

Float back in time to a dream of Romantic ballerinas and tragic love, finished off with a glittering spectacular.


Choreography Erik Bruhn after August Bournonville
Music Herman Løvenskjold
Set and costume design Anne Fraser
Lighting design Francis Croese

PAQUITA (1847)
Choreography Marius Petipa
Music Ludwig Minkus
Costume design Hugh Colman
Original lighting design by William Akers
Reproduced by Francis Croese


Sydney (20 performances)
7 – 25 November
Sydney Opera House
Joan Sutherland Theatre
with Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra

Running times

130 mins with two intervals
Estimated finish time of 9:40pm


Online via The Australian Ballet or 1300 369 741

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