Arts Centre Melbourne
August 30, 2013
By Rain Francis.
It was nice to see two historically significant and completely different ballets in one evening. La Sylphide was created nearly 200 years ago, and is recognised as being one of the first Romantic-era ballets. Paquita, which premiered in 1846, is known as one of the last of the Romantic ballets, and it couldn’t be more different from La Sylphide.
The Australian Ballet opened their double bill with Paquita. It is a quintessential “ballerina” ballet: sparkling tutus, tiaras and pointe shoes, dazzling displays of technique and perfect formations. Beyond beautiful smiles, supreme confidence and poise, not much is required by the dancers in terms of interpreting a character or telling a story, but their technical prowess is really put to the test. Paquita is pure fun to watch; it is happy, glamorous and vivacious and Ludwig Minkus’ classic score is invigorating. Leanne Stojmenov and Daniel Gaudiello were marvellous in the Grand Pas De Deux and in the solos, but for me it was Robyn Hendricks and Benedicte Bemet who really stood out.
The two-act La Sylphide is the ultimate contrast. With a dramatic storyline and magnificent set, it transports you totally. Set in Scotland, La Sylphide tells the story of a man who is due to marry, but is enchanted by a woodland Sylph, with disastrous consequences.
The highlight of Act 1 was, for me, the balletic take on a Scottish square dance, greatly enhanced by Anne Fraser’s costumes; the men in kilts and the women in beautiful tartan gowns. In Act 2 I loved the opening, with the witches and their magic cauldron, but it was the stunning, misty forest glade, with a corps de ballet of serene sylphs that stole the show.
Lana Jones as The Sylph was equally vibrant and fragile, and Adam Bull as James was – as always – masterful in technique, artistry and story-telling. Matthew Donnelly’s witch bought a comedic yet menacing darkness to the picture-perfect ballet.
Photo (top): Lana Jones and Artists of The Australian Ballet in La Sylphide. Photo by Jeff Busby.