Milwaukee Ballet Brings a Piece of the 19th Century to Life on Stage

Apr 6, 2017

The world of classical ballet is one of tradition.  Choreography for ballets like Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake has been passed down through generations of dancers and choreographers.  And while some ballets represent 21st Century interpretations of traditional works, others seek to present a performance that is as close an experience to the original as possible. 

Case in point is a performance presented on stage this weekend by the Milwaukee Ballet.  “La Sylphide” is an 1836 work by choreographer August Bournonville.  Keeping the ballet true to its creator has been the domain of the Royal Danish Ballet and dancer/choreographer Dinna Bjørn.

Bjørn, who has danced nearly all the roles in “La Sylphide” and staged it more than two dozen times around the world, has been in Milwaukee for a month to work with members of the Milwaukee Ballet ahead of opening night.

Bjørn says she is just the latest in a long line of artists who have kept Bournonville’s work alive since it was created nearly 200 years ago.  “[It] has been performed so frequently with the repertoire in Copenhagen,” she says, “that there has always been dancers who knew the choreography that could pass it on to the next generation.

“So we know, actually, that the steps the audience will see now in Milwaukee are exactly the same steps that August Bournonville created himself in 1836.  And that’s very special.”