1. List: La Sylphide (Australian context)
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    August Bournonville's La Sylphide (Sylfiden), set to a commissioned score by Herman Lovenskjold, premiered in Copenhagen in 1836, and has remained in the repertoire of the Royal Danish Ballet to this day. It was not seen in Australia until well over a century after its creation, when Dame Margot Fonteyn and Ivan Nagy danced the leads as guest artists during the 1974 Scottish Ballet tour. The first production by an Australian company was by the Queensland Ballet in 1978. At the premiere performance Caroline Douglas danced the title role, with Harold Collins as James, William Pengelly as Gurn, and Madonna Mabry as Effie. Harry Haythorne performed as the witch Madge, the role he had also taken in the Scottish Ballet 1974 season when returning to Australia after twenty-five years abroad.

    The Australian Ballet first staged La Sylphide in 1985, with choreography 'reproduced and staged by Erik Bruhn after August Bournonville', and set and costume design by Anne Fraser. Bruhn was Director of the National Ballet of Canada at the time, and his production of the work was well-known internationally. Constantin Patsalas was his assistant for the Australian staging. At the premiere, Christine Walsh danced as La Sylphide, David Ashmole as James, Kathleen Reid as Effie, and Steven Heathcote as Gurn. Paul de Masson performed as the witch Madge, with Laurel Martyn as James' Mother. Bruhn himself performed as Madge in one acclaimed performance. The 1989 revival of the work was dedicated to his memory, following his premature death within months of the 1985 season. On opening night in 1989, Christine Walsh again danced the title role, partnered by Steven Heathcote, with Justine Miles as Effie, and Adam Marchant as Gurn. Colin Peasley took the role of the witch Madge, and Laurel Martyn again appeared as James' Mother. The work also featured in the 1996 Australian Ballet season, with the program including an article by Blazenka Brysha in which Maina Gielgud, Lisa Bolte, and Adam Marchant discuss their appreciation of Bournonville's work. A distinctive body carriage, buoyant elevation, lightness and strong use of mime are noted as valued characteristics of the Bournonville style, with Gielgud likening the importance of its preservation to the possession by national galleries of works by great masters. La Sylphide most recently featured in the Australian Ballet's 2005 commemorative program for Bournonville's 200th anniversary. For this staging, Lisa Bolte, who retired from full-time performing in 2002, returned to the company as guest artist to dance the role of the Sylphide, partnered by Robert Curran.

    In creating La Sylphide, Bournonville used the Adolph Nourrit libretto that had underpinned Filippo Taglioni's earlier version of this ballet, with music by Jean Schneitzhoeffer, which had premiered in Paris in 1832. Taglioni's La Sylphide is often hailed as a landmark work which heralded the Romantic era. There are, however, indications that the frequently attributed innovations in costume and style were developments of pre-existing elements. While, for example, Eugene Lami is generally credited with introducing the Romantic tutu in his designs for this work, similar costumes existed well before the first production of La Sylphide, the original costume designs for which have in fact disappeared. Similarly, while Marie Taglioni's performance on pointe throughout thrilled audiences, dance on pointe was not, as such, an innovation.

    Taglioni's La Sylphide is also significant in Australian dance history, being the first ballet of the international repertoire to be staged in this country. Renamed The Mountain Sylph, the ballet was staged at the Queen's Theatre, Melbourne, on 25 September 1845 by George Coppins' Launceston-based 'company'. Charles Young was responsible for the reproduction, and danced the role of James with his wife, Elizabeth, as La Sylphide. Taglioni's La Sylphide continued to be staged in Australia during the 1850s and 60s, both by international touring artists and by local 'companies'. It has not been performed in Australia since, despite Joyce Graeme's plan to stage it for the National Theatre Ballet in the early 1950s. The work also disappeared from the international stage for many years, however Pierre Lacotte reconstructed it for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1972, and it remains in their repertoire.

    Bibliography:

    Edward H. Pask, Enter the Colonies Dancing. A History of Dance in Australia 1835-1940 (Melbourne: OUP, 1979); Edward H. Pask, Ballet in Australia. The Second Act 1940-1980 (Melbourne: OUP, 1982); Lynn Garafola (ed.), Rethinking the Sylph: New Perspectives on the Romantic Ballet (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1997).

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    created by: NLAdance on 2010-01-01 00:00:00.0
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  1. Jeremy Ransom and Fiona Tonkin in La sylphide, Australian Ballet, 1989 / Walter Stringer
    Stringer, Walter, 1907-2001
    [ Photograph : 1989 ]
    View online
    At National Library
    Jeremy Ransom and Fiona Tonkin in La sylphide, Australian Ballet, 1989 / Walter Stringer
  2. Lisa Bolte and Adam Marchant in La sylphide, Australian Ballet, 1989 / Walter Stringer
    Stringer, Walter, 1907-2001
    [ Photograph : 1989 ]
    View online
    At National Library
    Lisa Bolte and Adam Marchant in La sylphide, Australian Ballet, 1989 / Walter Stringer
  3. [Madge, the Witch in Australian Ballet performance of La Sylphide, Act I, 1989] Don McMurdo
    McMurdo, Don, 1930-2001
    [ Photograph : 1989 ]
    View online
    At National Library
    [Madge, the Witch in Australian Ballet performance of La Sylphide, Act I, 1989] Don McMurdo
  4. Martyn, Laurel (-2013)
    Choreographer; Dancer; Director; Producer; Assistant Director; Artistic Director; Performer; Stage Director
  5. Heathcote, Steven (1964-)
  6. Australian Ballet. (1962-2018)
  7. Haythorne, Harry (1926-2014)
  8. Collins, Harold (-2011)
    Ballet Teacher; Choreographer; Ballet Dancer; Artistic Director; Performer
  9. Queensland Ballet. (1960-)
  10. Fonteyn, Margot (-1991)
    Dancer; Performer
  11. National Theatre Ballet. (1949-1955)
  12. Graeme, Joyce (1918-1991)
    Dancer; Producer; Dance Director; Director; Choreographer; Ballet Master/Mistress
  13. Bolte, Lisa (1967-)
    Dancer; Ballet Master/Mistress; Speaker
  14. Gielgud, Maina (1945-)
    Artistic Director; Dancer; Director; Choreographer; Producer; Regisseur; Dance Director; Devisor
  15. Peasley, Colin (1934-)
    Dancer; Ballet Master/Mistress; Regisseur; Choreographer; Teacher; Production Designer; Presenter; Repetiteur; Speaker; MC; Actor and Singer
  16. Marchant, Adam (1963-)
    Dancer; Ballet Master/Mistress; Actor
  17. De Masson, Paul (-2012)
    Actor; Dancer; Ballet Master/Mistress; Performer; Dance Group; Repetiteur
  18. Ashmole, David (-2009)
    Dancer
  19. Walsh, Christine (1954-)
    Ballet dancers; Dance teachers