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La Sylphide

A Romantic, Supernatural Ballet


One of the first romantic ballets, La Sylphide was first performed in Paris in 1832. The original choreographer of the ballet was Philippe Taglioni, but most people are more familiar with the version choreographed by August Bournonville. His version of the ballet, first performed in Copenhagen in 1836, became the cornerstone of the Romantic ballet tradition.

Plot Summary of La Sylphide:

On the morning of his wedding day, a Scottish farmer named James falls in love with a vision of a magical sylph, or spirit. An old witch appears before him, predicting that he will betray his fiancee. Although enchanted by the sylph, James disagrees, sending the witch away.

All seems fine as the wedding begins. But as James begins to put the ring on his fiancee's finger, the beautiful sylph suddenly appears and snatches it away from him. James abandons his own wedding, running after her. He chases the sylph into the woods, where he again sees the old witch. She offers James a magical scarf. She tells him that the scarf will bind the sylph's wings, enabling him to catch her for himself. James is so enamored by the sylph that he wishes to catch her and keep her forever.

James decides to take the magical scarf. He wraps it around the sylph's shoulders, but when he does, the Sylph's wings fall off and she dies. James is left all alone, heartbroken. He then watches his fiancee marry his best friend.

Interesting Facts About La Sylphide:

A sylph is a mythological creature, or spirit. The ballet tells the story of an impossible love between a human and a spirit, and man's inherent temptation for the unknown and sometimes dangerous life. La Sylphide remains a captivating, fascinating ballet that appeals to both audiences and dancers.

The ballet is presented in two acts, usually running about 90 minutes. Many people confuse La Sylphide with Les Sylphides, another ballet that involves a mythical sylph, or forest spirit. The two ballets are unrelated.

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