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English National Ballet

'Sleeping Beauty'

by Stuart Sweeney

January 10, 2013 -- Coliseum, London, UK

This production started life at American Ballet Theatre in 1987 and was Kenneth MacMillan's third setting of arguably the most celebrated classical ballet. According to Jann Parry's biography it had a troubled gestation period with MacMillan's English concept at odds with the Soviet model of ABT's Artistic Director, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and some of his ballet staff. Nevertheless the opening season was well received and continued at ABT until superseded by Kevin Mckenzie's current production.

Thus in 2005, in an inspired move, ENB bought the ABT production and this very English setting came for the first time to its natural home. And it is such a fine production that it would not surprise me if it remained in the ENB rep for a very long time to come. For the transatlantic move new sets were commissioned from Peter Farmer, with much green foliage forming a fine setting for Nicholas Georgiades' original costumes – with brown, cream and gold in abundance in a 17th C. setting moving on 100 years for the final Act.

I saw the second night cast featuring Erina Takahashi and Yonah Acosta. Takahashi has been with ENB for 16 years, but her slight figure still gives her the ideal looks for a a teenage Princess. Having created the role in Derek Deane's production she is very familiar with the role and here in MacMillan's sumptuous staging, she excels: great musicality, superb technique, beautiful arms and a winning smile all combine to provide a fine portrayal, sustained throughout the evening. As Prince Désiré, Acosta bubbles with energy and, if a little raw in places, his solos in Act III set the stage alight.

Carabosse is nearly always a role where you can have a lot of fun, but with Georogidis' dazzling costume and a crazy bright red wig, Fabian Reimar stole the show: his portrayal a mix of saccharine sweetness and malevolent fury. As the Lilac Fairy, Lauretta Summerscales didn't put a foot wrong, but failed to take the role to an inspired level. In the variations, Crystal Costa had the vivacity and precision to bring her Songbird Fairy to glorious life and extracted much humour from the role of Red Riding Hood. Ksenia Ovsyanick brought beautiful lines and elegance as the Fairy of the Golden Vine. All the minor roles and ensemble sections were to a high standard, reflecting the inheritance the new Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo, has received from the years of nurturing by her predecessor, Wayne Eagling, Maina Gielgud and others who have now left ENB.

With a long list of casts for the London season, many dancers have been given the chance to share the limelight, continuing the tradition of recent years. For the press night, Zoe Anderson in The Independent wrote, “ Tamara Rojo...made a miscast heroine, but the ballet around her looked radiant,” and Judith Mackrell in The Guardian, “...on opening night [Rojo] looked visibly under stress, dancing the Rose Adagio with gritted nerves, and rarely reacting with her former expressiveness to the other dancers on stage.” It was always going to be a difficult job balancing the demands of a ballerina with those of an AD – I wish her every success in reconciling these two demanding roles.

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