#TBT: Carla Fracci and Erik Bruhn in La Sylphide (1962)

September 30, 2015

Let’s face it—ballet has a lot of death. There’s Odette and Siegfried’s double suicide, Giselle’s famous collapse (not to mention the Willis’ revenge on poor Hilarion) and don’t even get me started on the body count that Romeo and Juliet’s love leaves in its wake. Dramatic death scenes require some serious acting skills, which Italian prima ballerina Carla Fracci delivers in this clip of La Sylphide, filmed for television in 1962. Fracci enacts the Sylph’s demise with poetic grace. When James, danced by Danish ballet star Erik Bruhn, wraps the cursed scarf around the Sylph, death comes upon her gently, dawning rather than striking. Her diaphanous wings drop one by one and, with a furrowed brow, she gestures longingly towards the heavens that she’ll never fly towards again.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=9P2z277HKS0

Erik Bruhn & Carla Fracci dance La Sylphide (vaimusic.com)
www.youtube.com

When I first saw the ballet as a child, I viewed the tragic ending as a natural consequence of James’ infidelity. As a teenager—with a mother who aimed to raise strong independent daughters—I extracted a different lesson: never sacrifice your (metaphorical) wings for a man who doesn’t deserve you. These days, I admire different ballerinas’ unique interpretations. What do you make of this transcendent romantic ballet? Happy #TBT!