In mythology, a sylph is a divinity similar to a nymph but less earthbound. Therefore sylphs, as a group, are perfect subjects for ballet, the dance form whose ultimate goal is airborne-ness. “Les Sylphides” is an abstract and sylvan homage to the aerie creatures by Russian choreographer Michel Fokine, who set his 1909 ballet reverie to the arch-romantic music of Frédéric Chopin. With its winged corps performing acts of masterful marginalia while the prima ballerinas and “the poet” take their individual flights of fancy, “Slyphides” is not only a rite of passage for dancers, it’s a crowd pleaser for balletomanes and Chopin-lovers alike.
It is also the opening piece for “Simply Sublime,” the program of three ballets that is kicking off Boston Ballet’s spring season. The program, which runs through Feb. 19 at the Boston Opera House, also includes contemporary choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s angular “Polyphonia” performed to the music of György Ligeti, and George Balanchine’s “Symphony in Three Movements” with music by Stravinsky. None of the three dances has a conventional story– but, combined, they point to, and answer, the formal questions any dance must tackle. How do I get from point A to point B using the most poise, core strength and discipline I can muster? The more modern pieces respond to, and complicate, those questions in most engaging ways.
Ballet is likely to keep pondering those questions a long time, and opening night of the performance was a testament to another unchanging truth: Boston loves ballet. The Opera House was packed. The applause was loud. The scene was raucous – in that special dance kind of way. In all likelihood, the rest of the season – including the steamin’ “Play with Fire” (March 1-11), Rudolf Nureyev’s “Don Quixote” (April 26-May 6) and the Broadway baby “Fancy Free” (May 10-20) – will rock the house again.