This is day 9 in my Dance Inspirations Advent Calendar (II)
I think the male solo from Les Sylphides is one of the hardest thing for a dancer to pull off, starting with the bizarre cravat in the costume, and continuing through the wafty poetry of the steps and the unlikely premise of a grown man in a woman’s world getting up to dance in front of a load of sylphs, asserting his masculinity but not being so masculine that he jars with their fluffy white lala-land. He’s got to look noble and strong, but bend to every nuance of the music, a man enchanted by another man’s romantic musical outpourings, brought to life by (mostly) more men in an orchestra pit, but not a bit gay. He’s got to be a dreamer who remembers to put the rubbish out.
It’s an almost impossible creature, which is perhaps why Les Sylphides remains such a staple of the repertoire – this is how we would like men to be, and the only place to see them is on stage, portrayed by the most talented in body and mind. He’s a New Man, long before new men were invented, but not too metrosexual, because he’s got to cope in a woodland glade without a manicurist. He’s noble, but has the common touch; he’s strong but not aggressive, gentle but not wimpy, and so it goes on, a list of contradictions that have to be negotiated and appear as a single characteristic.
Thomas Edur is the only person I’ve ever seen make sense of this solo, and the only person I can bear to watch doing it, because he manages to do all of the above, as well as getting the steps right; and so, even though this may not be my favourite piece of music, and probably not Tom’s favourite or (in his mind) greatest role, it’s the one that reminds me of everything that is fine, noble, poetic and musical about him and his dancing. For that reason alone, I think it should accompany him in the Advent calendar class.