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NYCB Vol. 4 No. 7 - La Sonnambula

The original Sleepwalker in La Sonnambula, Alexandra Danilova, recalled learning this ballet in her autobiography Choura:

“I was the Sleepwalker who falls in love with the Poet. Sleepwalkers are without fear, drawn along the edge of a building by the sight of the moon, passing directly through danger but never sensing it. I used to sleepwalk when I was a student at the Theatre School [in St. Petersburg]. Once I was following a light far off in the distance, and suddenly my best friend called me and woke me up: I was standing on top of a table in our dormitory room, facing the window. Now, whenever I see the full moon through the window I draw the shade.”

“In an ordinary pas de deux, the woman is somehow engaged by the man, and she goes toward him. But I was going toward the moon. And that attracts the Poet, because he can’t make contact with this woman. That is the enigma of this ballet. He sense her understanding of his poetry and sees in her the unhappiness she feels at being married to a horrid man, someone she doesn’t love. But the Poet knows that she belongs to the moon.”

Danilova and Frederic Franklin. Photo by Baron, 1946.

Making up for La Sonnambula


Allegra Kent was 11 years old when she first experienced an evening at the ballet (1948). The third ballet on the program was La Sonnambula and it was the first ballet that she ever loved. Twelve years later, in 1960, Balanchine revived that ballet for her.

From Allegra's autobiography, Once a Dancer...:

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[1948] "Mother and I traveled downtown by bus to see the Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo. I was finally going to have a first view of the dances and dancers I had read about: Alexandra Danilova, Frederic Franklin, Mary Ellen Moylan, Ruthanna Boris. [...] At long last I was going to see a professional ballet performance.”

"The only ballet that interested me was Night Shadow, a mysterious fairy tale choreographed by Balanchine. The sleepwalker's exit astonished me, but it happened so quickly. Did a woman with a candle carry a man offstage?”

[1960] "Madame Danilova played a part in preparing to do this role. The sleepwalker's costume was important, and with two undulating movements of her hands, Mme. Danilova had told me to be sure the costume had the right kind of sleeves. Her remark was fortunate because Karinska with the sky-blue hair had already produced what looked like a Bloomingdale's nightie with short puffy sleeves. However, I misinterpreted Danilova's hand gestures—she had meant tight sleeves with tassels. Re-creating Danilova's same ripply wave of the hand, I asked Karinska for wide flowing sleeves. This turned out to be a happy accident. At the next fitting, the long sleeves with in place."

(left & center)Allegra and Nicholas Magallanes. Martha Swope.

(right) Danilova's original sleeves with tassles.

Allegra speaks with the Balanchine foundation about the La Sonnambula costume miscommunication.

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