Sleeping Beauty

Not referring to myself, here, though I’ve acquired a cold recently that certainly has me wanting to sleep for 100 years. It’s not making me feel very beautiful, though!

In spite of this, I powered through the snot to go see Boston Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty this weekend.

Although I claim to not really like story ballets, Sleeping Beauty holds a special place in my heart. For one because, during my freshman year of high school, our ballet teacher decided that we would do an excerpt from the 3rd act in the dance school’s annual recital. She adapted it to fit our small class (and our limited abilities), but we had a White Cat and Puss in Boots, the Bluebird, Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. I was the Lilac Fairy and Aurora, the Prince, and I performed the pas de trois together. It was a small portion of the recital, but I enjoyed it tremendously.

Then, a few years later, BB performed Sleeping Beauty and the same ballet teacher brought a group of us to see it. As a special treat, she arranged for the girl who played Aurora and me to see the company warm-up. I don’t remember much about the ballet, but I do remember watching the warm-up and being awed while watching professionals go through the same exercises we did.

Needless to say, I was very excited to be seeing this again with fresh eyes.

If you’ve not seen Sleeping Beauty, let me warn you that it’s rather a loooong ballet. I mean, Princess Aurora does sleep for 100 years, so they want to give you a taste… ha!

Seriously, though, I enjoyed myself far more than I expected to. For one thing, the costumes and sets are terrific. Lots of sparkle and elegance. The sets make the stage seem huge. From a visual standpoint alone there was a lot going on to keep the audience’s attention.

As for the choreography… I was wondering what to expect having just come off seeing the very modern and innovative Kylián. Would the 120 year old Petipa creation keep my interest? Surprisingly, yes. In fact, I really enjoyed the choreography. It’s much simpler than modern-day works. I could name most of the steps I saw. But instead of being boring (which I complained of with the new BB Nutcracker) I found it refreshing. Very clean with more of a focus on the story and the interpretation.

Although, this leads me to one of my complaints about the show. The casting. Now, like any ballet company, they have multiple people cast to play the parts and they rotate through the shows. I understand that the principals are going to be the main characters. But that doesn’t mean that all of the principals are appropriate for each of the leads. Our Princess Aurora was Lia Cirio, who — let there be no doubt — is a tremendous dancer. I’ve seen her in multiple shows now and she is clearly an exceptionally talented, poised, and strong dancer. But I think that poise was part of what made her feel so… inappropriate in this role. Princess Aurora is supposed to be a 16-year-old girl. While this is a fairy-tale, I still expect a 16-year-old character to display certain characteristics… a bit shy, a bit of reckless, a bit awkward, a bit naïve. Cirio was technically brilliant, but somehow came across as being too self-assured, too confident. Not very teenager-y. I found myself wishing that she were the Lilac Fairy, instead, something where her confidence and maturity would be a better match.

Along with that… I wish they had given Aurora a slightly more romantic tutu. Hers was the classic style, which was beautiful when she was dancing, but when she fell asleep was comically distracting. Here’s the slumbering Aurora and here is her tutu sticking straight up in the air like a saw blade. I wished they had given her a romantic style, or even a bell tutu for the first two acts, something that would have looked a bit softer, more in keeping with a young ingénue.

In general all the performances were lovely, though. The third act remains my favorite, and if I could play any role in the show I’m quite sure I’d want to be the White Cat. Sassy little scamp! It was such a joy to watch this part of the ballet and pull some memories out the recesses of my mind from 20 years ago!

Oh, and I must say a kudos to BB… I had complained about the fact that the Nutcracker cast list didn’t include the names of the students anywhere. This was rectified this time around. Students and supernumeraries both were listed at the end of the cast list. Bravo, BB! My ballet companion and I decided that our new goal in life is to become supernumeraries.

I have to say, this show changed my mind about the story ballets. While the stories themselves can be a bit silly, they are a completely different animal from the contemporary works and are deserving of respect in their own right, from the style of dance, to the set and costume design. And, of course, they are a great way to engage young people in the performing arts. The audience was noticeably larger last night than the one two weeks ago for All Kylián and there were many more children in the audience. While this can be a bit annoying for someone like me (when DO kids learn how to whisper quietly?), I was impressed that the ones around me paid attention for the full (nearly) 3 hours. Even if Carabosse did make a little kid cry during the prologue (I guess it was a testament to his — for it was a “he” on this particular evening — ability to project the fairy’s evil character), the stories pull the children in and I was glad to see so many parents bringing their children out to the ballet for an evening.

After gorging on BB for the past couple weeks I have to wait until May for Chroma (sooooo excited) and Coppélia. But, I did just get info about next season… including an opportunity to continue my super-awesome $25/ticket deal, OMG! It will be BB’s 50th anniversary and I am thrilled about all of the shows they’ve got planned: La Bayadère, Close to Chuck (also featuring Kylián’s “Bella Figura”), Cinderella, Pricked (with works by Zuska, Ekman, and Lander), and Balanchine’s “Jewels”. Cannot wait!

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2 thoughts on “Sleeping Beauty

  1. Interestingly, because of friends, I got to see three different casts of this show. All were excellent, but Cirio was the most childlike out of the three of them, and made the first to third act transition much clearer than the other two. Kuranaga is small, so automatically looks younger, and while technically amazing, doesn’t have the same acting “chops.” Very impressive Sleeping Beauty, especially after two weeks of Kylian dancing.

    • roriroars says:

      Thanks for the comment! I’m always curious to know how other dancers interpret the roles, so it’s interesting that you found Cirio to be the most appropriate out of those you saw (and I’m quite envious that you got to see three different casts!). I wish I could see others perform to compare and contrast a little. It was a very impressive show, and I’m always amazed at their ability to transition between two such disparate styles of dance.

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