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Both Ballet de la Nuit and La Sylphide are beautiful productions. Each graceful in their own right. However in comparison they show grace in separate ways. Le Ballet de la Nuit, choreographed in 1653 by Jean-Baptiste Lully was strong and grand. Where La Sylphide was powerful in its extreme delicacy, choreographed by Filippo Taglioni in 1832.
Each dance is attest to the times. Lully’s is grand; a demonstration of power. Down to the very last bit of choreography and dress Le Ballet de la Nuit tells the story of the rising sun, Louis the 14th. It is a ballet constructed to show Louis’s rise to power as King to be the absolute monarch of France. This is done in his dress and position. The King dressed as the sun wearing red soled leather heels is placed center stage slightly above the rest of his castmates. Just as the planets revolve around the sun the other dancers orbit Louis. A demonstration as to how it should and will become Louis time to rise to power.
La Sylphide tells a different story and with just as much grace and strength as Ballet de la Nuit. A lover falls for a beautiful fairy but try as he might he cannot catch her thus causing her death. He loses his original lover to his best mate, rendering him alone and at the mercy of nature. A true tragic romance. Like Le Ballet de la Nuit La Sylphide owes much of its storytelling to costuming and choreography. Much of the choreography is pantomime to tell the story aided by costumes, change in scenery(sets) and special effects.
Historically La Sylphide is the ballet that professionalized dancing on point, to dance ballet on the tips of ones toes. This in itself is a feat of great strength used to communicate delicacy and beauty. At the time, women’s rights was gaining more popularity and being a dancer was a way out into independance. womens aspirations coincided with the birth of the individual; life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In La Sylphide although the main character James is a man he is not granted a happy ending. If that were the case the fairy, or Sylph, would not have died and his betrothed would not marry another. Women although portrayed almost childlike and small also are shown as forces of nature. The sylph like a child begs for James to give her the scarf he will use to capture her with, unknowing that it will detach her wings. When he does capture her and rid her of her wings he takes away her magic hence ultimately killing her. rather than being his possession she is set free to heaven, as unattainable as ever. Taglioni shows that in this right women are not objects and cannot be captured as such.Echoing the aspirations and ideas of the women’s rights movement.
In their own way, ballet has told the stories of what would be to come. Le Ballet de la Nuit foretold Louis the 14th’s reign. That he would be the light of France and expel the darkness. With him came achievements such as Versailles, for he was the peak of the absolute monarchy. In La Sylphide the same can be said about the beginning messages of womens rights.
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