The ballet Sylvia, which is based on a legend from Greek mythology, originally debuted in France in the late 19th century, but it soon slipped under the radar. However, the rich score by Léo Delibes inspired British choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton to recreate the ballet in 1952, giving it a new lease on life. When The Royal Ballet revived Ashton's production in 2004, then-principal dancer Darcey Bussell premiered the role of Sylvia. In this clip from 2005, Bussell performs Sylvia's complex Act III variation with ease and elegance.
The solo begins with a challenging sequence of hops en pointe that showcases Bussell's strength and fluidity. She displays expert control in precisely accented steps and foot articulations—like her careful roll-downs from pointe at 0:45—as well as in the many sequences that travel backward, discretely upping the variation's difficulty. The choreography throughout echoes the music, contrasting staccato steps with soft, lyrical phrases. Bussell nimbly flows between these two textures: In her diagonal at 1:30, she intersperses clean, brilliant gargouillades with lush piqués arabesque. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!