Oregon Ballet Theatre's 'Sleeping Beauty'
by Dean Speer
October 9, 2010 -- Keller Auditorium, Porland, Oregon
By any measure, “The Sleeping Beauty” is an enormous ballet. The expectations of the public – artistically, technically --are enormous as well. When a company manages to reach and exceed these expectations, it may be said to have grown in artistic stature.
Just as Pacific Northwest Ballet’s 1981 “Swan Lake” allowed that company to ‘arrive’ in the minds of the public and the dance world, the same must be said of both Oregon Ballet Theatre’s earlier full-length premiere production"Swan Lake"and now their new full-length “The Sleeping Beauty.”
With choreography by Artistic Director Christopher Stowell (after Marius Petipa) and production – sets and costumes – rented from Ballet West of Salt Lake, OBT’s profile rises even higher.
From the opening chords of the overture played by OBT’s mighty orchestra to its lovely conclusion when beauty marries prince and all live happily ever-after, we were in for a treat.
Stowell’s choreography moves the story along well, following traditional lines, and he smartly deploys the wealth of talent OBT has amassed over the past few years – from Alison Roper's technically and artistically savvy Lilac Fairy to having former star ballerina Gavin Larsen as a beautiful evil fairy [Carabosse], to the glitter of Yuka Iino’s Aurora and her lanky and very adept cavalier, Chauncey Parsons.
I was pleased that he used the standard – and expected – choreography for the major parts such as the Grand Pas de Deux of the Wedding Act, the famous Blue Bird Pas de Deux, and the Lilac Fairy’s solo during the Prologue. My only choreographic corrective would be to make the “Puss in Boots/White Cat duet less fussy. The développé à la seconde where the other cat’s fingers follow the line of the extension, “walking the Yellow Page” up it to her foot is very witty and typically done at least twice, if not three times and seeing it only once was not enough. I’d suggest a revision here and, overall, tohave fewer movement motifs and use the plenteous material already at hand.
Ansa Deguchi and Lucas Threefoot were very strong as the Bluebird couple. (He’s supposed to be an actual bird and she imitates him.) Threefoot’s 24 brisé volé had good, clear, clean beats and he traveled very well, eating up the stage. Deguchi’s hops en pointe were solid, light and she nicely held the balances in arabesque at the end of each set.
I was disappointed that the mini-story and banter of Red Riding Hood and The Wolf were cut; they only made a cameo appearance in the finale. I’d like to see this restored, as it seemed odd to me to have them appear but then not do anything except to be part of the scenery. (Typically, what’s cut is Tom Thumb, who only gets the cameo.)
Ledby the baton of Niel DePonte, it was wonderful having the full mighty OBT Orchestra back for these shows. They sounded great.
Portlanders and those in the region who support and love ballet – please don’t stay away from these shows. OBT (and all professional dance) needs your help and one ofthe best ways to show your supportis to“put a seat in a seat.” This was a major classical ballet event, one to be very, very proud of, and the auditorium should have been filled to capacity on opening night; yet it was sad to see the balcony closed and too much red velvet from empty seat backs showing through.
In these times, we all need to reach out and make that special effort to help all of our neighbors in need. Certainly the beauty of the arts and how they lift and inspire each of us, fully deserves its share. If funds are a problem, request the least expensive seats or send a message to the box office or the ballet requesting creative solutions such as “rush” seating or volunteer opportunities.
Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “Sleeping Beauty” awakened glorious possibilities that clearly demonstrate that Oregon has grown and is nurturing a ballet company that deserves national attention.
Thank you for undertaking and presenting this ballet.
Read related stories in the press and see what others are saying -- visit the forum.