Thursday, June 17, 2010

ABT's Sleeping Beauty

And if you prefer your fairy tales ballet style isntead of dark comic book (see previous post) there is an interesting article about the American Ballet Theatre's (ABT) current production of Sleeping Beauty. It is one of my favorite of the romantic ballets for I love the Sleeping Beauty Waltz.

From Some Thoughts on A.B.T.’s “Sleeping Beauty” by Marina Harss:

American Ballet Theatre’s “Sleeping Beauty,” staged for the company in 2007 by Kevin McKenzie, the former ballet star Gelsey Kirkland, and her husband Michael Chernov, is hard to love. And believe me, I’ve tried, for “Sleeping Beauty” is one of my favorite ballets. In this, I am in very good company: Serge Diaghilev, who fell in love with it in St. Petersburg as a young man, nearly went bankrupt in his enthusiasm to stage it for the Ballets Russes. Balanchine, who appeared the Maryinsky Theatre’s production as a young student at the Imperial ballet school, often spoke of his love of it, and told the Russian musicologist Solomon Volkov “Sleeping Beauty comes first, and only then Swan Lake…. Sleeping Beauty is a pure diamond.”*

Indeed, “Sleeping Beauty” is considered the high point of Russian Imperial classicism, a celebration of St. Petersburg elegance, ballet’s French roots, and of the splendor of the grande école. Its story-line is distilled to an essence, a battle between good (represented by the Lilac Fairy, Aurora, and Prince Désiré) and evil (embodied by the “fallen” fairy, Carabosse). Deeper yet, it is about the glorification of feminine poise in its many forms. This powerful femininity is reflected everywhere in the ballet, in the Lilac Fairy’s melodious solos and sinuous mime (and knowing smile), in the symbolic dances for the other fairies (each representing a particular grace), and of course in Aurora’s transformation from a joyous and self-possessed teen ager (in the birthday scene), to a Romantic essence (in the Vision), and finally to a triumphant, mature woman in love in the Wedding pas de deux. She is the sun around which this world revolves. The role of men—including the Prince—is reduced to a symbolic minimum. King Florestan, Aurora’s father, is powerless to protect her from Carabosse’s rage; it takes the goodness and strength of the Lilac Fairy to mitigate her fate. And Prince Désiré, whose pure, faithful heart releases her from Carabosse’s charm, would simply continue his empty life of picnics and blind-mand’s bluff and never know true love if Lilac Fairy were not there to awaken him to his heart’s desire. Similarly, his dancing is reduced to a minimum (which is why Nureyev, in his version, added lots of steps).
The article is quite lengthy and isn't praiseworthy of the current production but it is meaty about the ballet's history.  And I still wish I could see the production.  I would enjoy it despite the flaws, I think.  Alas, I'll have to settle on a DVD instead....

Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty (The Royal Ballet)


  1. Mmmm, so pretty! I would love to see it, flaws and all.

  2. I adore the ballet of Sleeping Beauty. I've only seen the NYC Ballet's production, but I have heard rave reviews about ABT's. Hopefully I'll get to check it out soon one of these years.

  3. It looks beautiful. But check out the Birmiongham Royal Ballet as well - their production is stunning: