La Sylphide — the ballet that is all tartan and tulle — is back, performed by English National Ballet at the London Coliseum. ENB has long been a faithful custodian of many of August Bournonville’s ballets, and its dancers schooled in the Danish style by experts Frank Andersen and Eva Kloborg: jumps are light and high, petit batterie (beats) are crisp, the footwork is swift and the arms are kept low, soft and rounded. Created in 1836, La Sylphide is the oldest Romantic ballet still being performed around the world and it is easy to see why.
Its story — bridegroom becomes enchanted by a sylph, jilts his bride but unwittingly kills the sylph after crossing an old hag — is easy to follow, in part due to mime featuring largely in Bournonville’s choreography.
On the first night, Isaac Hernandez gave an outstanding display of Danish technique as the hero James, with powerful, light-as-air jumps and beautiful petit batterie. Jurgita Dronina was a mischievous Sylph, and Jane Haworth commanded the stage as Madge, a truly spiteful hag. The entire company shone in the large set pieces, with a rousing display of Scottish dancing in the first act, and, in the second, a bevy of beautiful sylphs moving as one.
La Sylphide was preceded by Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s 1965 masterpiece, Song of the Earth, danced with conviction and intensity.
La Sylphide and Song of the Earth is on until January 13 and then with Le Jeune Homme et la Mort from January 16 to 20