Two views of Fokine at American Ballet Theatre. Mindy Aloff:
?Michel Fokine?s ?Les Sylphides? is so distant in tone, subject, and technique from what today?s ballet dancers are trained to put over that when American Ballet Theatre announced that it would revive the ballet, along with several others by Fokine, after an absence from the repertory of nearly two decades, one might have well wondered, ?Why?? The answer became clear at the first performance of the lovingly curated new production this season: because audiences need it. We are starved for intricate patterning on the ballet stage and for the magic involved in transforming a massed force into a weightless image?the kind of effect one sees at sunset, when flocks of birds, before settling down to sleep, rise and wheel, like handwriting. We are also starved for a certain kind of deportment in the human figure?for an alliance of tenderness and self-sufficiency, for privacy and respect, for beauty that emerges fully formed, without a Darwinian dark side. We are starved for the Renaissance.?
And Robert Gottlieb:
?We were also given the beginning of A.B.T.?s attempt to reclaim Fokine as a viable part of the repertory: Both Les Sylphides and Le Spectre de la Rose re-entered the repertory after many years? absence. Les Sylphides has strong associations for the company?staged by Fokine himself, it was the opening ballet on A.B.T.?s opening night, Jan. 11, 1940. But more than 60 years have gone by since then, and Sylphides has lost its vitality?I haven?t seen a convincing performance in 20 years. Yes, it?s of immense historical importance, looking back in its groupings to Petipa and Ivanov and forward to the Balanchine of Serenade. But today?let?s be honest?it?s more than a little boring, and even a little silly, though that may be because we?ve seen it most frequently these past years through the skewed vision of the all-male Trocks. Its poetic delicacies aren?t natural to today?s athletic dancers?certainly not to the cast I saw the other day, who solemnly (and very, very slowly) went through the motions to almost no effect.?