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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 7 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 06
The Sleeping Beauty is absolutely enchanting!
Arts & Entertainment
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The Sleeping Beauty is absolutely enchanting!

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY
PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET
MCCAW HALL
Through February 9


The musical A Chorus Line boasts, 'Everything is beautiful at the ballet'. If this is true, then there is no place more beautiful than the Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty. This great Northwest institution brings this classic ballet to life with some of the most beautiful music (Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsy) ever written.

The story is familiar to most, but if you're relying on the cartoon version, please note there are major differences.

In a kingdom (reminiscent of France c. 1700's) King Florestan and his Queen celebrate the birth of their baby girl, Aurora (named for the Goddess of the Dawn). Everyone in the land has been invited including the magical fairies. Five of the six fairies (each representing various virtues) offer gifts to the young princess before the christening's interruption. Through an oversight of Catalabutte, the Master of Ceremonies, the fairy [of mischief] Carabosse is left off the invitation list. Bitter and feeling scorned she appears and prophesizes Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. The last (and most powerful) fairy, Lilac, finally offers her gift to the King and Queen. She can't undo the spell, but she can transform death to sleep.

The curse comes to pass and the entire kingdom is cast into a deep sleep for many years. Lilac appears and protects the kingdom with thick vines and trees to hide the kingdom and stand guard. 100 years later the handsome Prince Florimund is in the forest when Lilac appears. She leads him to the hidden kingdom and helps him cut down the vines that have grown. After defeating Carabosse, the curse is broken with a kiss and the sleeping court awakens from their slumber. A wedding is planned where storybook characters dance before the court and the fairies appear bestowing their blessings.

To say the dancing is beautiful is a gross understatement! It is hard to avoid cliché words like graceful, lissome, or elegant when describing the incredibly beautiful movements of these dancers, but anything else demeans their work. Each movement (and major kudos to Ronald Hynd and Annette Page; choreographer and assistant, respectively) was a joy to watch, and the dancers' movements seemed to flow across the stage. The set designs and costuming are beautiful (credits to Peter Docherty) with full usage of scrims and carefully gilded vines and branches to protect a hidden kingdom.

The story is easy to follow thanks to the simple pantomime of the silent dancers. The music is familiar to anyone who has ever listened to classical music, or seen one of many various Warner Bros. cartoons. Then, of course, there is the Disney version - which changed the story, including the addition of a dragon, and added lyrics to Tchaikovsky's music. These changes are NOT included in the ballet.

The story is divided into four short parts: Prologue (The Christening of Aurora), Act 1 (The Curse is Cast), Act II (The Prince is Led to Awakening Aurora) and Act III (The Royal Wedding), with short intermissions between each part. The costume of Carabosse (or even her defeat) is not too scary, so younger children shouldn't be frightened. But note: while each section is about 45 minutes in length, the entire ballet may be too long for the very young. It's a three-hour event and younger members of the audience may eventually grow quite restless.

The Sleeping Beauty (or Briar Rose as it was later renamed by the Brothers Grimm) is a French fairytale, and was first published by Charles Perrault in 1697. Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky began composing The Sleeping Beauty on May 30, 1889, after being approached by the director of the Imperial Theatres of St. Petersburg, Russia. Originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, it would be Tchaikovsky's 2nd ballet - between Swan Lake (1876) and The Nutcracker (1892).

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