La Sylphide – Queensland Ballet: London Coliseum, 5 August 2015

A sylpher lining

'Please Sarah, give me back my dinner money.' Luke Schaufuss' pleas fall on deaf ears in Queensland Ballet's La Sylphide. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

‘Please Sarah, give me back my dinner money.’ Luke Schaufuss’ pleas fall on deaf ears in Queensland Ballet’s La Sylphide. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

I may be wrong but La Sylphide has never struck me as the kind of ballet that gets people gabbing enthusiastically long into the night. It’s more of an ‘ah, that’s nice’ kind of affair. And so it was with Queensland Ballet’s London debut.

Peter Schaufuss’ production may be familiar to some of the locals from its days with London Festival Ballet. It’s a good-looking show, simply designed but highly evocative in its romantic gothism and the costumes get the job done nicely.

The lovelorn Sylphide, Sarah Thompson, was plucked from the corps and, at first, looked like she wanted to fly right back there. But after the interval she settled down and began to find the lightness of footwork required and her death scene was very moving.

Luke Schaufuss, son of the aforementioned Peter, had been brought in as a guest artist from Birmingham Royal Ballet to take the part of James, the emotionally confused Scotsman. In one way, this was a shame as, seeing that the Company had come all the way from Australia, it would have been good to have seen one of their own dancers tackling the lead. However, Schaufuss was trained at the Royal Danish Ballet and his command of the heinously tricky Bournonville choreography was exemplary – the deftness of speed and spring in his solos were superb.

Although both dancers were ultimately enjoyable to watch, they did lack chemistry together. They both seemed pre-occupied in getting their own roles right rather than creating a believable mutual passion, a pretty crucial point in such a fantastical story.

Their were some good turns in the rest of the cast. Greg Horsman’s Madge was downplayed enough to be suitably scary and Vito Bernasconi was funny in his muddled attempts to convince everyone else that James was having an affair with a fairy. The corps danced smoothly and showed their considerable capabilities in the big ensemble numbers, especially for the wedding festivities in Act 1.

And that was that. It was a good show, an old-school night at the ballet, if you will, and hopefully Queensland Ballet will be back again soon showing other aspects of their repertoire.

La Sylphide runs at the London Coliseum until 8 August 2015. Tickets can be found on the London Coliseum website.

Gerard Davis

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