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Austin Arts: Seeing Things

Posted: 10:03 a.m. Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: Ballet Austin’s “The Sleeping Beauty” 

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By Claire Christine Spera

The great 19th-century ballet “The Sleeping Beauty” requires technical prowess, endurance and story-telling abilities of its dancers. The beloved choreography by Marius Petipa spans a prologue plus three acts, which makes for an unusually long evening at the ballet. The emotional score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky is punctuated by complex and variable tempos, requiring dancers to reflect the musicality in their bodies.

 

Over Mother’s Day weekend, Ballet Austin, along with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, tackled this gem of the classical ballet world at the Long Center, performing Petipa’s original choreography with mixed results.

 

Featuring costumes and scenery courtesy of Cincinnati Ballet, the ballet and its large cast of characters looked the part. Princess Aurora’s fairy-protectors donned shimmering tutus, the members of the royal court wore wigs and traditional garments, and Act III’s wedding scene storybook guests (think Puss ‘n Boots and Little Red Riding Hood) were in character.

 

To put it simply, “The Sleeping Beauty” is a demanding ballet.

 

The young and innocent Aurora, played by Aara Krumpe, dances one of the most famously difficult choreographies in the entire classical ballet canon — the Rose Adagio — so named for the red roses she collects as she partners with a host of suitors. A ballerina’s Aurora is judged by this section, which consists of a series of promenades and balances on one leg, with four suitors rotating through to offer upturned palms of support. The adagio tests the dancer’s strength, balance and grace, and it was clear Krumpe needed time to ease into the dance; it begins mercilessly with a sustained balance en pointe.

 

A highlight was Act I’s Garland Waltz. While larger ballet companies have the numbers to completely fill the stage with garland-bearing couples, Ballet Austin’s version was danced by just the nine company members of Ballet Austin II; however, their exuberant energy, combined with the weaving nature of the choreography, filled the stage well. The same can be said of Prince Désiré’s (Frank Shott) vision scene, in which the Lilac Fairy Jaime Lynn Witts) coaxes the prince to go to Aurora’s rescue through a dreamlike, sparkly vision of the young princess. In this scene, the corps de ballet gets to do a fair amount of dancing, instead of just standing around and looking pretty, and they were spot on.  

 

“The Sleeping Beauty” ends on a light note with wedding scene cameos by storybook characters. Laughter rang throughout the audience when James Fuller and Brittany Strickland pawed and scratched at each other as Puss ‘n Boots and the White Cat, and when Elise Pekarek and Orlando Julius Canova played a game of hide-and-seek as Little Red Riding Hood and the Grey Wolf.

 

Well known in the ballet world, an iconic pas de deux takes place between guests Princess Florine and her Bluebird cavalier. Oren Porterfield’s slight frame (bedazzled in a deep blue tutu) and tidy motions were well suited to portrayal of a bluebird princess, while Ian JohnBethany’s jump technique served him well as Porterfield’s male counterpart.

 

“The Sleeping Beauty” is one of the great classics, and Mother’s Day weekend was the perfect opportunity to bring the ballet to Austin audiences. From the costumes to the dancing, the score to the storyline, both moms and their kids could find something to relish. 

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