Stunning La Sylphide lives on in our memories

With the 2022-2023 Sarasota Ballet season about to end with this weekend’s all Balanchine production, I’ve spent the past few weeks reimagining the tender and effective production of La Sylphide that is now in my pantheon of favorite evenings with the Sarasota Ballet.

La Sylphide performed by the Sarasota Ballet was as lovely as a vivid dream that you wish to cling to long after you awaken. In a blur of Autumnal colors, with sashes and dashes, the company outdid itself in its interpretation of the ballet classic. The gorgeous piece was such a triumph and had not been performed previously on Sarasota stages. Artistic Director Iain Webb has said the lead in La Sylphide was the role he dreamed to perform himself when he was a dancer, so mounting this show seemed to have the biggest buzz around it over the past several years. It was a signature piece of the Royal Danish Ballet (RDB) and was staged here by friend of the Sarasota Ballet Johan Kobborg, who was promoted to principal after his own portrayal of James in La Sylphide. Kobborg brings a vibrant flair and modern sensibility to the oldest preserved ballet that dazzles and delights.  

The Sarasota Ballet in La Sylphide photo by Frank Atura

Luke Schaufuss, who portrayed James, has been highlighted in performances multiple times since joining the company on the eve of COVID, but this is the first time I have seen him in a leading role of this magnitude thus far in his tenure with the company. I have been waiting to see him ascend to a role like this, because he has been one to watch and a scene stealer whenever he takes the stage. His carriage, presence, and demeanor are reminiscent of the greats of all time and pairing him with the delicate and nymphlike Macarena Gimenez, in the role of the Sylph was a match made in ballet heaven. He must have drawn upon his deep family history and training with the Royal Danish Ballet for the profound, timeless role of James, the groom who is beset by true love for a fairy he meets on the weekend of his nuptials.

Macarena Gimenez and Luke Schaufuss in La Sylphide photo by Frank Atura

Gimenez, who joined the company as a principal dancer this season, is so light on her feet as she seems to float across the stage even before she is rigged to be lifted into the air to fly as a fairy. Her technique is flawless and engaging, and I look forward to many more years of her roles as she continues to blossom with the Sarasota Ballet.

As always, the principals are supported by a strong cast, especially Ricardo Rhodes as Gurn, who is always a pleasure to watch, as he gallantly partnered with the jilted fiancée Effie portrayed by Anna Pellegrino. Unsurprisingly, Effie is swept off her feet by the loyal Gurn, whose unrequited feelings were finally returned at the close of the show.

Ricki Bertoni, character principal, got to flex his acting chops, portraying Madge, a sorceress, seeking to wreck havoc on the wedding preparations. It was great fun to see Bertoni in drag conjuring up all sorts of mischief with a band of witches. He always throws himself into every role to great effect and this playful role was no exception.

Finally, the costumes by Henrik Bloch were absolutely magnificent, highlighting the celebration in bold fall colors and heavy fabrics contrasted by the ethereal white costumes of the sylphs.

I can’t wait for this evening to see what the dancers will do with the all Balanchine show. But La Sylphide was one of the most unforgettable evenings at the theater and the memories will live on in my imagination.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s