Les Sylphides

Music: Frédéric Chopin.
Choreography: Michael Fokine.

Premiere: on June 2, 1909 by Ballets Russes in Paris (Théâtre de Châtele).
Dancers at the premiere: Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Alexandra Balding, and Vaslav Nijinsky.



Ballet in one act. Les Sylphides is a short, non-narrative ballet blanc. The ballet, often described as a "romantic reverie", was indeed the first ballet ever to be simply that. Les Sylphides has no plot, but instead consists of many white-clad sylphs dancing in the moonlight with the poet or young man dressed in white tights and a black top.

Les Sylphides is often confused with La Sylphide.

The Story

When the curtain rises for this ballet, the dancers are seen against the backdrop of a moonlit forest and a castle in ruins. The ensamble dances a nocturne (a composition of dreamy, night-like mood), followed by one soloist dancing a waltz (a dance in three-quarter time), another mazurka (a dance with a tambourine), and a second mazurka solo by the danseur. The prelude (an introductory section) is danced by a third female soloist followed by her pas de deux with the male soloist. The corps de ballet stands in groups on stage, changing its position from time to time. The corps de ballet presents a waltz, and at its climax, the soloists appear on the stage. Finally there is a return to the original grouping, and as the curtain falls, the entire ensamble is in the same position as they were at the beginning. It is as if a dream had briefly come to life.