Twice the Sylph: La Sylphide by Colorado Ballet & Maria Mosina
I think, think, I have mentioned this before, if I have, and you are reading it, again, forgive me, but for those of you just jumping on here, I was a classically trained ballet dancer when I was younger. I was hopeful to be a professional ballet dancer one day, and trained an intense Russian style, Vaganova method, at the Academy of Colorado Ballet. When I attended high school at The Denver School of the Arts, I wrote essays about my heroes, Gelsey Kirkland and Anna Pavlova. I idolized our company's prima ballerina Patricia Renzetti before she retired and became our school director, and then, then Maria Mosina came in 1995 and had all of the young girls transfixed. She was STUNNING! Her dancing sucked you in! And her flexibility, WOW, her cold steely glare, her professionalism, her attitude, it had all of us admiring her, and also a little, a lot, bit timid of her. We would sit outside Studio A, at the OLD building on 13th and Lincoln, they now have a gorgeous brand new space on Santa Fe that I MUST see in person some day, and just gawk at her. There was a room FULL of beautiful dancers, but there was only ONE "Mosha."
I had an ankle injury at my graduation party that I never rehabilitated correctly, and after taking a summer off, going through puberty, gaining a ton of weight and losing even more flexibility, I went into my final season of ballet so out of shape it was truly taxing emotionally on me, to know how far short I had come after being at my peak. I was supposed to have gone to a summer intensive, The Bolshoi at Vail, but I didn't quite have the funds, so my summer went very differently then dancing at a camp in beautiful mountains with world class instructors. Instead I had mastered the swirl at Dairy Queen and my hips were proof.
It was around this time that I had my last dance in Studio A, ironically. My ankle had been so weak, I sickled my foot on the way down from a jump during class, and broke my fifth metatarsal, i.e. bone in the middle of the foot on the outside, below the baby toe. My teacher rushed to my side and clapped, "Stop the music! Stop the music!" Very dramatic. After my injury I made the calls a few weeks later to my best friends, letting them know I wouldn't be returning to ballet. A piece of me will ALWAYS be a dancer, an artist, and this love affair with the theatrics and drama, the passion of ballet, is still with me.
That was the nineties. Now, today, this season, Colorado Ballet STILL has this wonder, this icon, THE "Mosha!" She is in her 20th season with the company! Unheard of! Colorado Ballet also celebrates Sharon Wehner and HER 20th season with the company as well! TWO ballerinas with the same company for TWO decades is soooo incredibly rare. Denver is lucky to have had BOTH of these stunning dancers. I AM so blessed to have had such a small little slice of my own history growing up, watching them in the company when I was a student, and STILL being able to watch them today as an audience member. If you haven't yet seen a ballet, or seen either of these women perform, you simply MUST, and this weekend is a wonderful time to see Maria in La Sylphide. Sharon will be dancing Alice in spring's Alice in Wonderland. The last time Colorado Ballet performed La Sylphide was in 1996! Mosha danced the lead role of the sylph then and I am so privileged and thrilled that I will get to see her dance yet again this Saturday. Every time I go to a production of Colorado Ballet's, I hope Mosha is dancing the lead. My brother in law had the idea for my sister in laws and I to take my mother in law for her birthday, and show her a special ballet and if there were any show worth taking special guests to, it would be one of the classics, in my opinion, La Sylphide being one.
A brief Wikipedia search on the history of the ballet, La Sylphide, was fascinating. "March 12, 1832, the first version of La Sylphide premiered at the Salle Le Peletier of the Paris Opera with choreography by the groundbreaking Italian choreographer Filippo Taglioni and music by Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhoeffer. Taglioni designed the work as a showcase for his daughter Marie. La Sylphide was the first ballet where dancing en pointe had an aesthetic rationale and was not merely an acrobatic stunt, often involving ungraceful arm movements and exertions, as had been the approach of dancers in the late 1820s. Marie was known for shortening her skirts in the performance of La Sylphide (to show off her excellent pointe work), which was considered highly scandalous at the time." More irony? Marie, Maria? A role meant for Mosha to dance. I can't wait!
What I love about ballet is its ability to expose each generation to a piece of history by essentially being a LIVE replay. Much like a loved family recipe handed down through cooking, taste, reenactment, classical ballet choreography has been preserved and passed on to dancers through choreographers and also through the music. The correlation of live music, the symphony orchestra and the ballet is so vital to a society, in my humble opinion. The codependence of the two and their survival is so important, I feel very strongly in supporting these art forms and sharing them with my family whenever I can.
When I practiced ballet, I had a devotion, a focus, a goal, a respect for myself, so strong, that there were very little outside influences that could penetrate. I hope my girls find a passion and love for something in their world that guides them to do good, holds their attention, encourages and soothes them, something that they can contribute positive energy towards as ballet did for me and soccer has for my husband.
I am so very excited to see La Sylphide this weekend! If you would like to feel what it is I am attempting to put into words, snag tickets right now, right here.
Congratulations Maria and Sharon on 20 years of devotion and love for ballet, and for our city! Denver loves you back!
(Photos courtesy of Colorado Ballet and photos below from their final dress rehearsal, by Mike Watson.
Female dancer shown is Maria Mosina.)