The ABT's Sleeping Beauty - Ratmansky Chooses A More Simple But Poetic Approach

American Ballet Theatre, also known as ABT, is celebrating its 75th

Anniversary this year with a new Alexei Ratmansky version of a Ballet classic: The Sleeping Beauty.

Originally, choreographed by Marius Petipa, composed by Tchaikovsky and premiered in St. Petersburg first in 1890, the Sleeping Beauty has come a long way from St. Petersburg to New York, being staged in different productions by such greats as Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Kevin Mc Kenzie. The ABT as many other ballet companies have used the Ballet to show case their stars such as Natalia Makarova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Susan Jaffe, Leslie Browne and Robert Hill.

 

Therefore, it was no surprise to see that the Sleeping Beauty was a terrific draw for audiences of all ages when ABT opened their week in California on Tue, March 3rd, 2015 at the Segestrom Center for the Arts with Diana Vishneva as princess Aurora and Marcelo Gomes as prince Desire.

Diana VIshneva, Marcelo Gomes

The curtain went up and the beautiful backdrops indicating the splendid Christening scene for baby Aurora at court began.

 As in most of Tchaikovsky’s ballets there are many Polonaises and Waltzes that are used to parade the King, Queen and court members across the stage in a ceremonial manner and so it was mostly through this prologue that dancers and extras entered and promenaded their costumes across the stage.

At some point, it felt like there were more people on stage than the space permitted, one more glamorous

lookinh than the other.

Set design and costumes were breathtakingly beautiful. It was clear that the production didn’t spare any cost to recreate the Ballet Russe originals by Russian painter and designer Leon Basket.

Magnificent was the queen in a gorgeous golden dress accompanied by the King in a matching frock. Other costumes including the fairies were really colorful and individually beautiful but made little sense collectively as a picture. There was little to no dancing in this act due to the traffic on stage and the highlight was mainly when the Evil fairy, Carabosse, Nancy Raffa, appears in a marvelous chariot drawn by rats.

Nancy Raffa, Carabosse

For a minute I thought I was in the Nutcracker but realized that the Lilac Fairy, godmother, played by Veronica Part was merely guarding baby Aurora and us from further harm. And so the rats disappeared and the curtain fell.

 

Act one, proceeded with Aurora’s sixteenth birthday, introducing the radiant Russian ballet diva Diana Vishneva. Her demeanor much of an angel, innocent and pure, very much the Aurora one wants to see. Her moves are delicate and gentle while dancing with the four princes of whom she is to choose a fiancée.

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Diana Vishneva as Princess Aurora

The choreography, although musical, was very plane and almost unchallenging for most dancers but the audiences estonishments grew seeing Vishneva and other dancers doing their chaines (turns on a diagonal) on half point in point shoes, making her look like she was marking and not dancing full out.

 

The fairies Devon Teuscher (Sincereirty), Misty Copeland (Wheat Flower), Sarah Lane (Breadcrumb), Stella Abrera (Temperament) and Skylar Brandt (Canary) seemed charming but a bit heavy on their toes during their variations.

Charming were the many kids of the ABT performing the Rose Waltz

Unfortunately the mustard, turquoise costumes were unfavorable to the dancing.

Same for the violin pages who were suffering of little to no space on stage in overpowering green velvet costumes making these avid little dancers clash with the rest of the scene.

 

Act two, finally presents a more calming set and more subdue costumes in the Hunting scene. Only Marcelo Gomes, as Prince Desire, shows off a colorful hunting frock.

His variation seems very simple and less than athletic.

It seems like Ratmansky was trying to recreate the original historical court dances, keeping the poetry alive but taking out all the

technically challenging jumps and lifts, giving his soloists more time to focus on their expression and acting.

The ABT corps de ballet is as usual very "on point" and hits every arabesque perfectly to the music. The group of nymphs are charming and lighten the mood with their allure and poise.

 

Act three, starts with all the precious stones performing, finally showing some more challenging dancing on point, featuring very gifted and beautiful dancers such as Isabella Boylston, the Diamond fairy, Stephanie Williams, the Gold fairy, Lauren Post, the Silver fairy, and Melanie Hamrick as the Sapphire Fairy, all in their own character, reminding us that these Ballet variations are taught in ballet schools because of their challenging technique and powerful characterization.

 

Our young audience was delighted to see all “Grimm” characters such as: Little Red Riding Hood with the Wolf, Puss in Boots, Cinderella and Prince, and Hop-o’my-Thumb and his brothers, appear on stage.

Most memorable in this production, however, were Cassandra Trenary and Danil Silkin as Princess Florine and the bluebird not only because they were able to really move on stage but because a lot of the original choreography made sense and left the audience yearning for more dancing. Silkin’s equisite jumps finally made the audience roar and Trenary’s sharp turns and beautiful lines left most audience members in awe.

ABT in Sleeping Beauty

 

The grand pas de deux with Vishneva and Gomes was less inspiring and missed most climactic moves one is used to seeing in this act. The ballerina lifted her leg barely over ninety degrees making the soloist look as if she was rehearsing. Leaving out once again most magnificent over- the- head lifts, big jumps or turns the chorographer must have made some stylistic choices that were most unfavorable for any educated ballet audience. At some point Gomes was doing petite allegros( small jumps) in his men’s variation, where one is used to seeing other soloists fly across the stage and doing a Mazurka step to a Waltz seemed to make no sense except maybe to keep this Ballet in its original historical version and giving the audience and dancer’s some time to enjoy Tchaikovsky’s marvelous music.

 

Sandra Plazinic is an Entertainment- and PR writer, Ballet teacher and Choreographer

 

The Sleeping Beauty performs from 3/3-3/8/2015.

Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts

600 Town Center Drive,

Costa Mesa, CA 92628-2197

Photos by Doug Gifford and Gene Schiavone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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