Tag Archives: les sylphides

the cute sylphide…NOT

6 Oct

So I was trying to tidy up my side bar a bit, trying a few different widgets or whatever and a friend of mine told me about Google Friend Connect, which I thought might be interesting to play around with.  So I tried to mess around with it, only to find out that it doesn’t work if your blog is hosted on WordPress, so until they come up with a specific widget for it, it’s a no go.  Good thing I figured that out AFTER an hour of going cross-eyed trying to make it work, and smacking my head on the coffee table out of frustration.  I basically accomplished…nothing.  But the experience did make me wonder if there was anything I could do to make my blog more reader friendly.  For example, if I should add an RSS feed button thingie to the side bar (even though I believe they’re at the bottom of the blog) to make my blog for accessible.  I’ve steered clear of doing that, because I don’t really know how exactly RSS feeds work.  Anyway, suggestions are always welcome, not only on technical crap, but topics you’d like to see, dances to be reviewed, anything and everything is fair game.  I like change and could use some inspiration!

So I was looking for something on my computer, but I forget what…and happened upon something I consider to be the most horrifyingly humiliating thing I’ve ever written.  Now I can’t remember if I first saw The Nutcracker in high school or college, but regardless of whether I did or not, nobody should EVER count The Nutcracker as the first classical ballet work they ever saw.  One should always casually shrug it off, and either omit it in conversation, or if it’s the only ballet you’ve ever seen, phrase it in a way that makes it seem unimportant to you, like “well, I saw The Nutcracker when I was little…but, you know.”  This is how you can instantly gain respect from dancers and seasoned ballet fans, and come across as someone with a deeper interest in ballet than one who attends the famous “cash cow.”  I don’t have a problem with people going to see The Nutcracker, but to me, it’s a Christmas ritual, and kind of not a ballet.  Plus, there are too many children.

What was I talking about?  Oh yes, my heinous, dark secret.  Although Romeo & Juliet was the first full length classical work I ever saw (performed by BalletMet in the spring of 2008), my very first experience watching live, classical ballet was at Ohio State, when I saw Jessica Zeller perform an excerpt from Les Sylphides and part of the pas de deux from Giselle, partnered by Rodney Veal.  Ohio State’s Sullivant Hall is a small theater, and I sat pretty close to the stage, so it was also the first time I really got to see someone dancing en pointe in detail.  Now I was taking many classes at the time, and all I know is that A teacher for A jazz(?) class (Dance 201.03) had us write performance response papers, and because the performance was an amalgamation of different works, she said we could select a specific piece and I chose the ones that moved me the most, which obviously, were the ballets.  So I wrote the required, double spaced one page response and THAT, my dear friends, was the FIRST thing I ever wrote about ballet as an audience member (other teachers, including Yen Fang who showed me Remanso, only had us write journals).  So I unearthed this ghastly artifact, and could barely bring myself to read it.  I think Jessica herself once said that there’s a picture of her doing a pique into arabesque on a completely parallel leg and how it’s so horrifying, and that’s what I liken this paper to.  I’m probably building this paper up to be worse than it actually is, but it’s like looking at baby pictures.  You know the feeling.

So here it is…my first response to classical ballet:

It’s all in the Face

            Viewing live ballet is actually a fairly new experience for me, so I was excited to see Jessica Zeller perform excerpts from Giselle (after Petipa, Coralli and Perrot) and Les Sylphides (after Michael Fokine) as two of the works of mélange, at Sullivant Hall Theatre on February 9th, 2008.  When Les Sylphides began I was immediately drawn to her face, in which she wore an intensely concentrated yet delicate expression.  I was fortunate enough to be sitting very close to the stage, which gave me a new appreciation for dancers who dance on pointe.  I really saw her feet and ankles working, and it just baffles my mind that the body can even be supported on such minimal contact with the floor.  Her dancing itself epitomized elegance, and her height gave the dance a “cute” feel to it, which to me is even more appropriate for how I would imagine a forest sprite, as opposed to a much taller dancer.

            Giselle, in which she was partnered with Rodney Veal, had more of a melancholy atmosphere.  The lighting was dimmed, with a spotlight that represented the moon, so of course in addition to the woefulness, there was also a sense of romance.  Thankfully, the story of Giselle was printed in the program so I did not have too many unanswered questions as to what was going on, and to me, this is one of the biggest reliefs of ballet, the fact that ballet tells a story that is easy to grasp.  As for the dancing, I again found myself gravitating to their faces, taking note of how alive their expressions were.  Technique, lifts, and beautiful extensions were of course lovely, but in many ways my eyes would always follow a line from the face, through the body and outward.  It inspires me to remember how critical maintenance of the visage is to entire character of a performance.

Now, she is indeed short…and she’d be the first to tell you that (she would often say in class that all of our legs were longer than hers so we had no excuse for not travelling through space) but the fact that I called her a “cute sylphide” makes me want to DIE.  Like I couldn’t come up with something vastly more intelligent?!?  <insert *facepalm* here> You don’t recover from that…that’s approaching levels of saying “The Nutcracker is my favorite ballet.”   Now that your impressions of my intelligence have been severely damaged, I shall leave you with a quote from Théophile Gautier, balletomane and writer of the libretto for Giselle, in a desperate attempt to erase the debauchery you have just read:

Nothing is really beautiful unless it is useless; everything useful is ugly, for it expresses a need, and the needs of man are ignoble and disgusting, like his poor and weak nature. The most useful place in the house is the lavatory.