#TBT: Merle Park in "Les Sylphides" (1963)

January 6, 2021

Les Sylphides, choreographed by Michel Fokine to music by Frédéric Chopin, is often considered the first plotless ballet. It transports the audience, not through a story, but through mood and music. The ballet’s romantic aesthetic allows dancers to make artistic choices and luscious musical interpretations. In this clip from 1963, Merle Park, a former principal with The Royal Ballet, captivates in this waltz variation with her sweeping energy and attention to subtle details.

Park has a beautiful sense of dynamics in her movement that mirrors Chopin’s score. In the opening diagonal, Park contrasts lofty jetés with calm balances in arabesque. Later in the variation, she transitions seamlessly from her speedy bourées to gently present her foot in tendu. As she travels across the breadth of the stage, Park never misses a detail; her fingertips gently brush her tutu, letting the skirt dance, and she pushes the air with her hands as if she’s whispering secrets to the sylphs around her. Throughout, Park uses her upper body with gorgeous fluidity, showing the audience every angle of her back and shoulders. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!