The Choreography of LA SYLPHIDE: An Interview with Ballet Master Harald Uwe Kern about Staging August Bournonville’s LA SYLPHIDE

Louisville Ballet Rehearsal of La Sylphide / Photo by Shelby Shenkman 2023

Louisville Ballet’s Senior Ballet Master Harald Uwe Kern discusses the beauty of August Bournonville’s choreography for La Sylphide – and how the history of the ballet is evident in the movement.

What is special about Bournonville’s choreography?

Harald Uwe Kern: “What is beautiful about Bournonville is the speed and the footwork, the beats – there’s a lot of beats and a lot of little steps and syncopations. The stage was very small in Denmark. That’s another reason why they developed these styles, a lot of things up and down, straight up and down, and even jumps travel as more of an arc. So you hit the jump and go over [in an arc] instead of trying to fly as far as you can.

Why do you think La Sylphide has lasted over the years?

Kern: “The story of La Sylphide is absolutely timeless, and I think it’s one of the reasons why it’s still performed today. It’s about searching for the unattainable, and wanting the unattainable, and then destroying everything by doing so. And we can relate to that.  You know we all have been there – where we want something that, deep down, you know you can’t have. But it’s just so wonderful and beautiful that you go after it anyway, and then sometimes it ends up tragically, just like in La Sylphide.”


Join us for LA SYLPHIDE with Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony:
April 13-15, 2023 | The Brown Theatre | Choreography by August Bournonville and George Balanchine | Music by Hermann Lovenskjold and Felix Mendelssohn | Costumes + Set Designs by Robert Curran

BUY TICKETS ONLINE NOW or call the Louisville Ballet Box Office at (502) 583-2623.

One of the oldest existing classical ballets, set in Scotland and first staged almost 200 years ago, “La Sylphide” explores themes of love, vengeance, and envy while examining the juxtaposition between nature and modern life. With original choreography by August Bournonville and new costumes and sets designed by Artistic Director Robert Curran. This production also includes George Balanchine’s “Scotch Symphony,” the American master’s nod to the Scottish Highlands, filled with intricate footwork, a wistful pas de deux and more, all performed to Mendelssohn’s evocative score.

Louisville Ballet’s presentation of “La Sylphide” and Balanchine’s “Scotch Symphony” is generously made possible by Jim + Marianne Welch and James + Elizabeth Voyles.