La Sylphide: romantic ballet at its best

May 31, 2013


La Sylphide: romantic ballet at its best

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

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

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

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 Arts Centre Melbourne from 29 August for 12 performances and then will travel to the Sydney Opera House on 7 November.

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. Ultimately he loses everything; the Sylph to Madge’s spell and Effie to the arms of his cousin Gurn.

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


Melbourne (12 performances)
29 August – 7 September
Arts Centre Melbourne
State Theatre
with Orchestra Victoria

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

Bookings online via The Australian Ballet’s website or 1300 369 741

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