The Story of La Sylphide

The Story of La Sylphide

A Magical World of Forbidden Love

Bournonville’s La Sylphide is part of SF Ballet’s 2022 Season. It will be performed in Program 4 from March 15–20, 2022.

Act I

It’s wedding-day morning for James, a young Scottish farmer. As he dozes in a chair before the fire, a Sylph dances around him, but when he awakens, she disappears. James asks his friend Gürn about the mysterious creature, but Gürn didn’t see anything. The wedding guests and James’s bride, Effy, arrive. Seeing a shadowy figure in the corner, James rushes over; it’s not the Sylph, but the witch Madge. Effy asks Madge to tell her fortune. The witch tells her that she will marry Gürn, not James. Angry, James throws Madge out. As the wedding procession forms, James gazes upon the ring. Suddenly, the Sylph appears, snatches the ring, and escapes into the forest. James follows her, abandoning Effy.

Wei Wang in Bournonville’s La Sylphide // © Erik Tomasson


As James enjoys more time with the Sylph and her followers in the forest, he becomes increasingly frustrated that he can’t hold her in his arms. In search of a solution, he comes upon Madge, who gives him a magical scarf that will help his dream come true. As ecstatic James rushes back to the Sylph, but when the scarf is wrapped around her shoulders, her wings crumble to dust and she dies. The distraught James looks up to see the wedding procession of Effy and Gürn.“

San Francisco Ballet Dancers in August Bournonville’s “La Sylphide,” 1987 // © Marty Sohl, courtesy of the Museum of Performance + Design

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Header Image: San Francisco Ballet in Bournonville’s La Sylphide // © Lloyd Englert. Photo courtesy SFMPD.