Sylph from Les Sylphides - First performed November 12, 1951. Designed by James Pape. Photo by Setareh Sarmadi.
This production holds a special place in the company’s history as Les Sylphides was part of the company’s first-ever performance. Staged by the company’s founding Artistic Director Celia Franca with choreography by Michel Fokine and designs by James Pape, The National Ballet of Canada premiered Les Sylphides at Toronto’s Eaton Auditorium. At the time, the National Ballet was newly formed and had been rehearsing together only a brief few weeks. The lead role of a Sylph would have been danced by many of the National Ballet’s earliest members, ranging from Corps de Ballet members to Principal Dancers.
Les Sylphides is a mood ballet, or what is called a “ballet blanc”, which uses the ethereal image of the sylph to suggest a dream or fantasy world. Traditionally set in a woodland landscape, the National Ballet’s early Les Sylphides scenery featured a dappling of snow intended to make the production more “Canadian”. This costume is a typical romantic tutu that is free flowing and emphasizes the lightness of the dancer as she portrays one of several metaphysical muses to the lone male Poet character in the production.
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