Two Sylphides

June 21, 2009

I got a chance to see both Natalia Osipova (Russian) and Hee Seo (Korean) dance La Sylphide this week at ABT. They were both excellent in different ways, though Osipova got all the attention. I could see why, because she was an absolute delight. Osipova (see our cover story  from last year) was both ethereal and flirty and projected to the balconies. Plus, she has an amazing jump, and when she crossed the whole stage in three jetés she was like a dart shooting through the party—very thrilling.

Hee Seo was less thrilling, but had more, shall I say, integrity in the sense of body and mind together. Her long limbs floated so that you really did believe she was like dew in a forest. She made it clear right from the start that she was in love with James, her body leaning in toward him as he sat sleeping in the armchair. She was a bit more modest than Osipova, which seemed more Bournonville to me. Her phrasing was longer, more patient; her developpé seemed to just float up out of her.  Her natural smile bespoke an inner radiance, as opposed to Osipova’s doll-like look.

On the other hand, Osipova was so charming that you could believe James would drop his fiancée for her.

On the other hand, Hee Seo was a more idealized, spiritual being, and isn’t that the point?

So I am glad I got a chance to see them in one week—and by the way they both landed incredibly quietly from their jumps. But I have to admit that choreographically and music-wise (the composer was Hermann von Lovenskjold) there is not much that’s memorable in this ancient ballet (1836). But I will remember these two great ballerinas—and of course Victor Barbee as the hobbling, horrific witch Madge.


Hee Seo in
La Sylphide, photo: Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT