in Ballet Arizona’s The Firebird and La Sylphide

Above: The theatrical eye makeup on the Ballet Arizona dancers represent both ballets: on the left is The Firebird and on the right is La Sylphide. Photos by Tim Fuller.

The past and future collide in one spectacular program as Ballet Arizona performs two ballets: The Firebird, a completely new production from Artistic Director Ib Andersen and La Sylphide, one of the world’s oldest ballets. This juxtaposition of old and new comes to Symphony Hall on Valentine’s Day weekend, February 14-17, with live music by The Phoenix Symphony.

While the story of The Firebird is based on a classic Russian folk tale, Andersen’s rendition reimagines the story in the future tense to explore love, fantasy and escapism. Fast forward to the future, the ballet is best described as a classic tale that is told through a new lens. Andersen’s Firebird unfolds in an undefined setting, where the aesthetics of warriors, monsters and aliens combine to create an otherworldly experience. 

Above: Ballet Arizona dancers Mimi Tompkins and Helio Lima in The Firebird. Photo by Tim Fuller. Sketching by Fabio Toblini.

A ballet unlike previous company performances, Andersen’s unique world premiere of The Firebird features his original choreography. The intricate couture costumes, created by famed New York costume designer Fabio Toblini, mirror a stylized version of what one might imagine as futuristic attire. The company’s resident lighting designer, Michael Korsch, creates the atmosphere for Andersen’s vision, employing light and projections to generate a cinematic-like experience. Featuring a 120-foot panoramic screen that engulfs the stage, this production is a visual spectacle is a vivid expression of the Igor Stravinsky’s masterful score. 

Stravinsky, a Russian composer, wrote the concert for the 1910 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company. First performed at the Opéra de Paris, the work was an instant success with both audiences and critics. Credited as Stravinsky’s “breakthrough piece,” the ballet also signifies the beginning of collaborations between Diaghilev and Stravinsky. 

Andersen shares, “I thought it [The Firebird] was going to be much more difficult but the score is amazing. It’s so intense. I listened to 20 different recordings of The Firebird, and I chose the one by Valery Gergiev, because it made the most dramatic sense from beginning to end. The others felt a little choppy. This is going to be a challenge for the symphony too. It’s such a complicated score.”  

Above: Ballet Arizona dancers Nayon Iovino and Jillian Barrell in La Sylphide. Photo by Tim Fuller.

Sharing the program is La Sylphide. One of the most iconic romantic ballets, it was created in the early 19th century, first by Fillippo Taglioni and then by August Bournonville. “It’s a great ballet that has survived almost 200 years,” explains Andersen. “We [Ballet Arizona]haven’t performed this since 2004 so it is basically like a premiere in itself  because the last time we performed it was at the Orpheum without a live orchestra.”

La Sylphide is a story of passion and elusive love. An alluring fairy and diabolical witch wreak havoc on the life of James Ruben, a young Scotsman. Head over heels, James gives up everything for the love of a beautiful, but unattainable, woodland sprite. 


The Firebird and La Sylphide
February 14-17
Ballet Arizona at Symphony Hall