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La Sylphide

The Colorado Ballet celebrates the 20th anniversary season of two of its principal dancers, Maria Mosina and Sharon Wehner, with one of the oldest surviving ballets, a compelling tale that serves as a perfect warmup for the Halloween season.

Maria Mosina as La Sylphide
Maria Mosina as La Sylphide
Photo: Mike Watson
While the art of ballet can be traced back to 15th century Italy, it was not until La Sylphide was first performed in 1832 that en pointe was employed with an aesthetic rationale, rather than as a novelty.

The choreography from that production, by groundbreaking Italian choreographer Filippo Taglioni, was lost, and the music, by Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhoeffer, was abandoned when Danish ballet master August Bournonville attempted a revival in Copenhagen in 1836 and the Paris Opera demanded too high a price for the score.

Maria Mosina as La Sylphide and Alexei Tyukov as James
Maria Mosina as La Sylphide
and Alexei Tyukov as James
Photo: Mike Watson
Bournonville mounted his own production based on the original libretto (by Adolphe Nourrit, who adapted the story from various sources) with music by Herman Severin Løvenskiold. It is on this version, with staging and additional choreography by Karin Elver, that the Colorado Ballet's production is based.

The stunning sets (courtesy of American Ballet Theatre) for this production, which concludes next Sunday, October 11th, provide a grand stage for the tragic story.

Gregory K. Gonzales as Madge
Gregory K. Gonzales as Madge
Photo: Mike Watson
James (Alexei Tyukov), a young Scotsman, dreams about a sylph, who hovers lovingly over him and vanishes when he awakes. His friend Gurn (Francisco Estevez), who was nearby, did not see anything and reminds James that he is about to be married to Effy (Morgan Buchanan). During the pre-wedding festivities, James becomes enraged at the presence of Madge (Gregory K. Gonzales), an old witch, and attempts to oust her from the premises, which results in Madge's vow to prevent the marriage and destroy James.

Alexei Tyukov as James
Alexei Tyukov as James
Photo: Mike Watson
As light as a feather, Mosina's La Sylphide floats across the surface of the stage, eluding James, remaining tantalizingly just out of reach. What better way for Mosina to celebrate her 20th anniversary than to display such delicate virtuosity. Tyukov's resoluteness as James increases with each unfullfilled appearance of La Sylphide, the only outlet for James being their ephemeral dances, where Tyukov's athleticism and artistry shine.

Since he retired from the company, Gonzales has made a career of portraying mysterious and/or threatening characters—such as Drosselmeyer (The Nutcracker) and the Stepmother (Cinderella)—and his witch is just as memorable, full of character quirks and nasty intent, all brought alive through Gonzales' mastery of pantomime.

Artists of the Colorado Ballet
Artists of the Colorado Ballet
Photo: Mike Watson
Buchanan and Estevez work wonders as the spurned betrothed and frustrated suitor, adding to the urgency and risk of James' choices.

Adam Flatt and the Colorado Ballet Orchestra provide a bright and expressive rendition of Løvenskiold's score.

Gregory K. Gonzales as Madge and Alexei Tyukov as James
Gregory K. Gonzales as Madge
and Alexei Tyukov as James
Photo: Mike Watson
An unexpected delight is the psychological sophistication of the storyline. From a Jungian point-of-view, what we see is James comparing his anima, or feminine ideal (i.e., the sylph) to his betrothed, which feeds his pursuit of the sylph, whom he cannot touch. Tragedy results, because the male anima, or the female animus, can only be fulfilled through art, where the ideal can be manifest, not through another person, where flaws are natural.

The Colorado Ballet's presentation of La Sylphide runs through October 11th. For tickets: (303) 837-8888 or tickets.coloradoballet.org.

Bob Bows

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