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Kirov Ballet - 'La Sylphide'

A buoyant 'La Sylphide'

by Catherine Pawlick

November 29, 2004 -- Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia

Slowly falling snow crystals decorated St. Petersburg Monday night, turning frosty, sparkling streets into a winter wonderland, as a half-empty house filled the Mariinsky Theatre to escape the cold and enter, for a few hours, a world of fantasy and dreams. “La Sylphide” is perhaps not among the top three that come to mind when discussing classical ballets, but it is a charming short work with much room for rumination.

This cast featured the increasingly lithe Maya Dumchenko as the cheery, innocent Sylphide, characterized as much by lightness of spirit as lightness of foot, and clearly entrancing James, danced by Nikita Sheglov. Sheglov was visibly bewildered by the beauty and elusive quality of this spirit of the air, his earthy petit allegro in contrast to her light pointework. If the height of his jumps was not always notable, he delivered everything cleanly, including perfect double tours. Moreover, his acting ability extended to all reaches of the theatre, an essential component of a ballet so dependent on plot.

Having never seen the Royal Danish Ballet perform “La Sylphide,” it is difficult to compare, but the Kirov’s mastery of Bournonville technique and style is remarkable. Dumchenko seemed airborne despite the grounded quality of this choreography. The two youths, Alexander Sergeev and Alexei Timofeev were expert in their short duet during the first act, shoulders and arms held in relaxed fashion as strong legwork prevailed. And although not blessed with a role including pointe work, Kitti Papava danced the distraught fiancée with tangible emotion and enthusiasm.

The small corps de ballet of pristine sylphides was charming to behold. Again Yulia Bolshakova danced the lead sylphide, accompanied by Maria Lebedeva, Olga Esina and Maria Yakovleva. Bolshakova’s mature grace at such a young age cannot escape notice, her regal carriage connotes a professionalism beyond her years, to say nothing of her beautiful, long feet and nice lines.

The developpe devants sustained a minimum of wobbling in the corps, and their arm positions were true to romantic style. The Sylphide’s graceful death is one of the most tragically beautiful on ballet stages – she is upheld horizontally and carried offstage by six sylphides, all in white. It makes an impression.

Edited by Lori Ibay

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