Inside NYCB's La Sylphide with Sterling Hyltin

Hyltin in Bournonville's La Sylphide. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

 

Tomorrow, New York City Ballet presents the company premiere of the quintessential Bournonville ballet La Sylphide, staged by ballet master in chief Peter MartinsNYCB principal Sterling Hyltin will dance the lead role of the Sylph on opening night. For Pointe's bi-weekly newsletter, we spoke with Hyltin about embodying the timeless classic.

What has embodying the Bournonville style in rehearsal been like? 

It has been wonderful from beginning to end. I admit the first week was really tough, because we're not used to dancing exactly this way. To achieve the airiness, you have to jump without your arms because you're supposed to lift them on the descent. You're really taking it all in the legs.


How would you describe your character of the Sylph? Do you feel like you relate to her in any way? 

The Sylph is innocent and pure. And she's all positivity. In general, I'm a really happy person, so I do relate to her in that sense. But I'm human, I have my bad days, so it's a little bit of mind over matter. You want to think about the positive instead of concentrating on the negative.


What are some of the challenges and hallmarks of the ballet? 

You do need to have an extra awareness of the feet at all times, and always be on your guard about articulation. Something that's been really wonderful is getting to do more pantomime. To concentrate on not just meaning love, but "Do you love me? I need to know." I'm finding little nuances that I can add to my other roles--it will really trickle into all of the repertory.


What advice would you offer to other dancers who are learning a role for the first time? 

My advice, which applies to me as well, is to enjoy every second of it. It's easy to get caught up--you want to do well, you're nervous--but you have to remember that this is why you work so hard every day. This is the fruit. You can't shy away from something you live for. Embrace it and enjoy it.

 

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