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New York City Ballet: La Sylphide, Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2
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New York City Ballet: La Sylphide, Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

La Sylphide
Ballet in Two Acts

Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2

Founders: George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief: Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress: Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master: Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Music Director: Andrew Litton
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Associate Dir. Communications: Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate: Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 16, 2016

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

La Sylphide (Martins 2015, Royal Danish Ballet 1836): Music by Herman Severin Løvenskjold, Choreography by August Bournonville, Staged by Peter Martins, Assisted by Petrusjka Broholm, Scenery and Costumes by Susan Tammany, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Production Supervision by Perry Silvey, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Performed by Indiana Woodward as The Sylph, Anthony Huxley as James, Marika Anderson as Madge, Megan LeCrone as Effie, Joseph Gordon as Gurn, Gwyneth Muller as James’ Mother, and the Company as The Wedding Party, Witches, The Sylphs, and The Wedding Party Children (from School of American Ballet).

Peter Martins recently staged an absolutely enchanting, intermission-less version of Bournonville’s renowned story ballet, La Sylphide. Click here for the full plot in Bournonville’s version. The sets in this production were created by a City Ballet usher, Susan Tammany. For the Scottish farmhouse, Ms. Tammany used dark woods, a cathedral ceiling, and a wide window for the Sylph to enter and exit. There’s also a large doorway, for the wedding guests to file through, a fireplace, and a comfortable chair, on which James sleeps. When the Sylph awakes James with a kiss, they fall in love immediately, as ballet characters often do. Never mind that James’ fiancée is about to arrive with the wedding party, so James and Effie can marry later that day. James’ rival Gurn arrives as well. The rejected, evil witch, Madge, whom James turns away, will get her revenge. James’ mother is put to the trouble of losing her son to a forest fairy and a prospective daughter-in-law to her son’s rival. And, the Sylph is devilishly destroyed by the vengeful, scorned Madge.

As James, in tonight’s new cast, Anthony Huxley, a youthful Principal, with stunning technique and ebullience, as well as a sensitive persona, transfixed the eye and inspired the viewer’s imagination. His solo and double en air turns were breathtaking. As the Sylph, Indiana Woodward, a Corps dancer, also youthful and diminutive, infused her role with floating, impressionistic style and ingénue grace. There was an immediacy and freshness in the James/Sylph Pas de Deux, a sense of wonder and an element of danger. In the Act I farmhouse scenes, the School of American Ballet is represented, as students dance in party attire, before the planned wedding. Mr. Martins often finds a way to include his students, an impressive feat. But, it’s in the Act II forest scene that the major drama ensues. Here Ms. Tammany has designed an abstract, impressionistic motif, with hints of the costume colors, for swirling trees, florals, hills, fauna, and more. Where she used purple plaid kilts for the men and matching plaid dresses for the women in Act I, she uses the same colors in costumes for Act II, except, of course, for the ensemble of Sylphs. The Sylphs are in the requisite tulle, white dresses and wings, with hair florals and ornamentations.

Act II opens with Madge at her fiery, smoky cauldron, cooking the poison shawl, which she’ll give to James as a gift for his Sylph. This scene was eerie. As an unusually youthful Madge, Marika Anderson was menacing, deeply dramatized, and in the moment. Her fingers curled in the air, with her feverish, cruel thoughts. Megan LeCrone was the spurned Effie, left at the moment of her pre-nuptial toast. She yearned for James, but settled for Gurn, a pragmatic young woman in plaid. Joseph Gordon was a more warmhearted and impulsive Gurn, compared to those cast previously. Gwyneth Muller, as James’ mother, was mature and disoriented, as events took turns for the worse.

The final image of the Sylph’s floating body in a bed of twigs, taken to the clouds, was ethereal. The female Corps as Sylphs was stunning and spellbinding, especially in the Bournonville posturing and balancing motifs. Another takeaway was the quality of exemplary, miming gestures of the entire company, simplified and authentic, for meaningful storytelling. For a company so steeped in abstract ballets, to have mastered the dramatic innuendo so expertly remains remarkable. Daniel Capps conducted the Løvenskjold score with aplomb.

Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 (1964): Music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky (Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Major), Choreography by George Balanchine, Costumes by Gary Lisz, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Piano: Susan Walters, Performed by Sara Mearns, Ask la Cour, Savannah Lowery, Cameron Dieck, Andrew Scordato, Kristen Segin, Sarah Villwock, and the Company.

I have seen this ballet performed elsewhere in the original, more formal approach, with chandeliers and heavier costumes. Balanchine's 1973 choreography, with spare but sparkling costumes and bare stage and lighting, gave this work a new look, unencumbered but still glimmering. Clotilde Otranto, tonight’s Conductor for Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2, and Susan Walters on piano, both drew the Concerto’s tonal romanticism out onto the stage. Sara Mearns and Ask la Cour were perfectly cast, with Mr. la Cour dancing like a prince, exuding storybook yearning and dramatizing the mood, and with Ms. Mearns adding perfumy silkiness, impassioned glimmer, and allure. Their Pas de Deux was gripping. Gary Lisz’ white silky tutus sparkled, adding luster to Ms. Reichlen’s abundant gusto. Savannah Lowery has blossomed into a fervid and luminous dancer, energized and animated. In the ensemble, Unity Phelan, Preston Chamblee, Silas Farley, and Emilie Gerrity drew my eye. Kudos to George Balanchine.

Kudos to all.

Indiana Woodward in August Bournonville's "La Sylphide"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The David H. Koch Theater
Photo Taken the Night of the 9/15 Lunar Eclipse
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at