Watching dancers can be truly breathtaking. Need I say that the ballet professional is awe-inspiring.
In ABT’s Les Sylphides, one afternoon last Spring during their 75th anniversary season, even dancers who were perfectly still were a moving sight.
The piece set to music by Chopin was choreographed by Michel Fokine and first staged by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russe in 1909. Benjamin Britten’s orchestration for the dance was commissioned by Ballet Theatre (now ABT) in 1941. Fokine’s sole purpose in creating this dance may have been to dazzle. Lucinda Ballard’s ethereal costumes give white its own palette.
Watching the American Ballet Theater’s Les Sylphides is a transformative experience.
A recent NYCB production of Ballanchine’s nearly full-length Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 provided a similarly transportive experience. The dancers are firmly holding their space, in command of their bodies, and the viewer is taken to another realm. To this viewer, the temptresses in the first three movements Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 are as seductive as the sirens in Les Sylphides. Its elegiac Elégie, gorgeous Valse Melancolique, and Scherzo, with the dancers playing behind a screen (costumes and scenery by Nicolas Benois) are wild and fluid. The ballerinas let down their hair, the men wear loose, flowing pants. The cast, from Rebecca Krohn, Megan LeCrone, and Ana Sophia Scheller, backed by a stirring and whirling corps, and supported by Russell Janzen (in the first pairing). Justin Peck (in the second) and Antonio Carmena, are inspiring to behold. Part 4, Tema con Variazoni, danced frequently on its own as Theme and Variations, was created as a commission in 1947 for Ballet Theatre (now ABT.)
Today it feels like mixing companies is worse than mixing metaphors. It’s as if we were showing appreciation for the Mets and the Yankees, for the Jets and the Giants, the Knicks and the Nets… but none of these are worthy of our attention the way the two great New York-based ballet companies are.