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Running down a dream

The Fort Wayne Ballet presents La Sylphide

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


To put it simply, La Sylphide is the timeless story of a groom who starts having second thoughts in the aftermath of his bachelor party.

In this case, James the groom has his head turned by a fairy-like being called a sylph. “It’s a woodland creature, like a sprite,” explains Fort Wayne Ballet’s Artistic Director Karen Gibbons-Brown, filling us in on the legend behind the FWB’s production of La Sylphide. “It’s 1/3-fairy, 1/3-mosquito, and 1/3… well, some other insect.”

But it’s the human portion that interests James, and though the sylph — danced by Lucia Rogers, who bears absolutely no resemblance to a mosquito — is beautiful, she’s essentially unattainable. “As the legend goes, if they’re touched by human hands, their wings fall off, they go blind, and then they die and go off to sylph heaven,” Gibbons-Brown says.

Being a guy, James (who is danced by David Ingram in the FWB’s production) goes after her anyway. He’s engaged to Effie (Felicity Nicholson), who has her own admirer in Gurn (Sam Rogers), James’ cousin and best man. But on the morning of James’ wedding day… “The sylph appears to James. In the legend, she can only appear to human eyes when she chooses,” Gibbons-Brown continues. “So she flies through the window on the morning of his wedding and appears to him, but the implication is that she’s been in his life all along, loves him, and wants to stop him from marrying Effie.”

James loves Effie, but it’s an arranged situation, and when it comes time for the wedding toast, James is nowhere to be found — he’s off in the woods, following the sylph, who has promised to take him to her beautiful woodland home where they can be together. Effie, Gurn and the rest of the wedding party heads off to search for him…

The ballet of La Sylphide is based on an old folktale, but it isn’t one of those “happily-ever-after” kind of folktales. Effie gets her wedding in the end, but it probably isn’t giving much away to tell you that things don’t turn out too well for her ex-fiancee. “James gives up everything that’s real to chase after a dream,” says Gibbons-Brown. “In chasing after the dream without staying in touch with reality, he loses everything.”

Like we said above, it’s a familiar story. Take away the magical elements, the fairy-tale creatures, the witch (there’s a witch in there), and you’ve got a guy who leaves his loving bride-to-be to go chasing after someone new, while his best friend wonders what the attraction is (and in the ballet La Sylphide, Gurn literally can’t see the sylph). In the end, he’s left looking like a fool.

“It’s an age-old tale,” Gibbons-Brown says. “It could be the ‘mid-life crisis’ ballet.”

But of course, you wouldn’t want to take those fairy-tale elements out of the story. The Fort Wayne Ballet promises an impressive visual spectacle with La Sylphide, filled with all sorts of pageantry.

Gibbons-Brown tells me that La Sylphide comes from the “romantic era,” which began roughly in the early 1830s (La Sylphide made its debut in 1832) and has many characteristics typical of the time — it’s first act takes place in the “real world,” while the second act takes place somewhere more ethereal, for example. But one thing that does stand out in La Sylphide is the male lead. While many ballets of the time feature a female lead, in La Sylphide, James ties the entire story together. “Yes, it’s all about him,” says Gibbons-Brown. “I don’t think the dancing is that much different than other ballets, but James has to carry the story. He’s the common thread.”

James is danced by David Ingram, who started his dancing career at the Fort Wayne Ballet and is currently at the North Carolina Dance Theater in Charlotte. He’s worked with the Fort Wayne Ballet as a choreographer for the Fort Wayne Ballet, Too summer program.

The Fort Wayne Philharmonic joins the FWB for all performances. "We are proud to again partner with the Fort Wayne Ballet in a co-production of this classic ballet,” says J.L. Nave, president and CEO of Fort Wayne Philharmonic. “This joint artistic venture has been a spring tradition between our organizations for several years. We often perform the music of ballet without the benefit of choreography, and although the music has a beauty to itself, nothing compares to experiencing it in the fullness of its original creation."

Additionally, the Ballet is hosting a Wedding Celebration immediately following each of the matinee performances, encouraging audience members to meet and have photos taken with selected cast members. Wedding Celebration parties are held in the second floor Ian Rolland Gallery at the Arts United Center. Tickets are $7 per person and include interaction with the dancers, a gift bag, autographs, and a photo opportunity. Dancers’ photos and pointe shoes will also be available for purchase and may be autographed at the Wedding Celebration parties.

La Sylphide isn’t the only performance Fort Wayne Ballet is putting on that weekend. Saturday morning on March 27, the Fort Wayne Ballet’s Youth Program offers up Peter & the Wolf at 10 and 11:30 AM at the Arts United center. This is part of FWB’s Fables, Folk & Fairytales series (they did Alice In Wonderland last fall) and are basically performances specifically for families and include some interactive time with the dancers.

The Fort Wayne Ballet presents La Sylphide
Saturday, March 27 at 2:30 PM & 8 PM
Sunday, March at 2:30 PM
Arts United Center
303 East Main Street
Tickets: $25/adult; $20/seniors; $20/youth (ages 11-17); $15/children (ages 3-10)

Wedding Parties follow the two matinee performances. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased with your performance tickets (seating is limited).

Family Series: Peter & the Wolf
Saturday, March 27 at 10 AM and 11:30 AM
Arts United Center — Ian Roland Gallery
303 East Main Street

For tickets, call (260) 481-0777 or (260) 484-9646, or visit fwphil.org.

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.