The Sarasota Ballet reached a new level of artistic excellence as they performed Johan Kobborg’s production of August Bournonville’s “La Sylphide” at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on March 24-25.
The dancers, the set design by Soren Frandsen and costume design by Henrik Bloch all came together seamlessly. The Herman Severin Lovenskiold score conducted by Ormsby Wilkins was effortlessly delivered by the Sarasota Orchestra to create a magical evening.
A beautiful and bittersweet story, "La Sylphide" is considered the oldest existing ballet from the Romantic Era. The curtain opens on the wedding day of a young Scottish farmer, James, who is asleep in his chair. As he slumbers, a Sylph dances around him. When he wakes, she disappears.
The wedding guests, along with James’s bride, Effie, and a fortune teller, Madge, arrive. When Madge predicts Effie will be happily married, but not to James, the fortune teller is thrown out by James, who is furious. The Sylph reappears but only James can see her. When she departs, James follows her, leaving Effie behind.
Act Two takes place in a forest full of sorcery and sylphs. James becomes frustrated that he cannot hold the Sylph in his arms, and he turns to Madge’s magic for a solution. James runs back to the Sylph with a scarf that Madge has given him. As he captures her, her wings crumble and she dies. As the curtain closes James is watching his friend Gurn marry Effie.
Kobborg’s production and coaching flattered all the Sarasota Ballet dancers, from corps de ballet to principals. Macarena Giminez danced the role of the Sylph. She was the quintessential fairy — equal parts playful and mysterious. Her technique was, as usual, exquisite throughout.
Schaufuss embodied his role as James, and his dancing never looked stronger. A third-generation dancer, he is the son of Peter Schaufuss, the Danish ballet dancer, director and choreographer. His grandparents were dancers Frank Schaufuss and Mona Vangsaae.
In “La Sylphide,” Ricki Bertoni was dark and wicked as Madge, a role often portrayed by a woman. Ricardo Rhodes was excellent as Gurn, receiving chuckles from the audience after a few humorous moments.
The ensemble dancing in Act One was delightful; the addition of a few children was a nice surprise. The sylphs in Act Two were precise and dreamy, led brilliantly by Marijana Dominis.
It was wonderful to see audience members of all ages enjoying a truly timeless ballet.
“La Sylphide” is one of the oldest ballets in the world, having first been performed in Copenhagen in 1836. Iain Webb is the Sarasota Ballet’s director. His wife, Margaret Barbieri, a former Royal Ballet prima ballerina, is assistant director.