Les Sylphides Chopin – The History
Les Sylphides Chopin ballet is a famous ballet in one act.
The choreography was done by Fokine and the music by Chopin.
Les Sylphides was first performed at an examination performance at the Maryinsky Theater, St Petersburg on the 20th of March 1908. It was then performed in a proper theater on the 4th of March 1909. The ballet was first performed in Western Europe by the Ballets Russe at the Theater Du Chatelet in Paris on the 2nd of June 1909.
When Les Sylphides was first done, it was titled Chopiniana for its first Maryinsky performance and it remains so titled to this day in Russia. The ballet was renamed Les Sylphides for its first performance in Paris by the Ballets Russes.
What Dances Make Up The Les Sylphides Ballet?
This is the order of the ballet.
Prelude, op. 28, no. 7 – Overture
Nocturne, Op. 32, No. 2 – ensemble – danced by the company
Valse, Op. 70, no.1 – solo – premiere danseuse
Mazurka, Op. 33, No. 2 – solo – danseuse etoile
Mazurka, Op. 67, No. 3 – solo – premier danseur
Prelude, Op. 28, No. 7 – solo – premiere danseur
Valse, Op. 64, No. 2 – pas de deux – danseuse etoile and premier danseur
Valse, op. 18 – ensemble – the company
This version below is a full version of the ballet danced by the American Ballet Theater with Cynthia Harvey as the Principle or Premiere Danseuse.
The scene of this ballet is a forest glade. On one side the grey ruins of a monastery, and on the other leafless trees. In the background there is the faint outline of a tomb stone. The ballet is set at nighttime and the moon is throwing patches of silvery light on the stage.
When the curtain rises, the corps de ballet and the four principals are grouped in a semi-circle against the forest background. The dancers all wear traditional white ballet skirts of the Taglioni period. When they move the manner of this pure romantic ballet is a series of four variations and a pas de deux framed in two ensembles.
The mood of Les Sylphides is spiritual, tinged with sadness, except for the more animated concluding scene. The total effect is poetry for whose proper performance purity of style is essential without any form of excess exaggeration.
This ballet has no story line and is descended from the shade’s scene in La Bayadere, but Les Sylphides Chopin introduced what was essentially a new genre which was a ballet with moods and no narrative structure as well as no clearly defined characters.
The inspiration for this ballet was the romantic ballet era and the title was from the original La Sylphide.
Fourteen years after Swan Lake, Les Sylphides carried the search further for more expressive movement. The aim wasn’t the normal tricks and double turns one normally sees in the big ballet productions, but rather the patterns and lines creating a more lyrical quality that flows out of the music.
The great achievement of Les Sylphides, in fact, is its musicality. Fokine wanted it to be the personification of a poetic vision.