State Ballet Theatre of Russia: Sleeping Beauty

When I bought my ticket for the State Ballet Theatre of Russia’s production of Petipa’s “Sleeping Beauty” at the Fox, I was kind of taking a gamble. I like Petipa, but only when I’m in the right mood. His work generally ranges from pretty to gorgeous, but the way that he just tosses solos around in a work can turn me off sometimes: I’m just much more taken with ensemble work than solo virtuosity. Also, the touring company performs to canned music and, though I love Tchaikovsky and think his ballet is excellent, the sound system at the Fox can irritate me at times. The gamble paid off, thankfully, because I needed a good dose of beauty and this was just the ticket.

The performance was mostly very good. There were a scant few less than perfect moments from the Lilac fairy in the first act that made me feel like she wasn’t really all there for the role today, though she picked up the slack in the second act quite well. There was also a moment of tension when it looked like the silver cowboys (princely suiters) didn’t quite have a safe grip on Aurora during a lift. Other than that, though, everyone ranged from good to excellent. The tech crew didn’t quite rise to the occasion, though, and some lighting cues were off, the followspot was inconsistently applied, and there was a rather embarrassing bit of timing confusion with the grand drape at the end.

The ballet itself is a lot of fun when performed well. With Petipa, the story is second to the painting of beauty across the stage through dance and the various scenes ranged, as I suggested above, from pretty to gorgeous, though it tended more toward pretty. The solo pieces and pas de deux are nifty and often impressive, but I like the images created when four or more people are dancing more and I was pleased that the corps de ballet really delivered there.

The apotheosis at the end is a bit odd, regardless of how it’s staged: three sets of characters from other fairy tales dance for the king and queen in honor of the wedding. It’s rather out of the blue and kind of surreal. An odd choice in costuming was made to put the blue bird in green, though it was a cool costume, with wings webbed along the arms, and it was performed very well. As the wolf chased after and finally abducted Red Riding Hood, I couldn’t help but remember how it upset a friend of mine that the court just sat there and watched and didn’t help her at all. All in all, it was a fun show to watch and it was fully of prettiness for the sake of prettiness, which was something that I sorely needed.

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