Awakening To A Brand-New Day
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Sleeping Beauty”
Saturday 6 February 2010, Evening Performance
by Dean Speer
For many audience members, the essence of ballet is contained in three Tchaikovsky ballets: “The Nutcracker,” “The Sleeping Beauty,” and “Swan Lake.” There is even a myth that these three ballets comprise the sum total of the worthwhile repertoire for ballet companies.
While “Swan Lake” is perhaps the most soulful and “The Nutcracker” usually the frothiest, “The Sleeping Beauty” gets at the heart of a classic work – an imbalance in an otherwise perfect world that is set right by the expulsion of the ugly and a pairing of the beautiful. A fairy tale come to life right before our eager eyes. I also believe this score to be the best of the three.
Right in our own backyard here in Seattle is what I think is among the best versions in the world – an authentic staging lovingly set by husband and wife repetiteurs Ronald Hynd and Annette Page. PNB has the depth of dancers – and of a production team and staff – who can pull off this huge ballet and make it look easy; the other part of being classical.
We were treated to a stellar cast of some of PNB’s most popular dancers: Carrie Imler as Aurora and Batkhurel Bold as Prince Florimund with that great dancer-actor Olivier Wevers as the wicked Carabosse.
Imler is a very strong dancer with one of those great open faces that makes her perfect for this very exposed and demanding role. When we got to the glorious Act III wedding pas de deux, Bold and Imler nailed each sequence, including the daring and impressive ‘fish dives.’
Hynd’s own “Gold and Silver Pas de Trois” is its own miniature lesson in craft. Lindsi Dec, Benjamin Griffiths, and Jonathan Porretta had the sparkle and panache, giving it a sense of elegance – a gift to the royal couple.
Everyone always gets a giggle out of the wit and charm of “Puss in Boots and the White Cat.” How they interact, play, and paw at each other is a toast to the joy pets bring to us and what fun to see this danced out by Sarah Ricard Orza and Jordan Pacitti.
The “Bluebird Pas de Deux” is one of those excerpted gala pieces that sets a standard for technical expertise infused with characterization. In this case, the princess tries to imitate the bluebird. For the male the challenges include, the sense of flight and flutter while at the same time exerting the strength and freedom of its exacting choreography, including 24 brisés volé. Margaret Mullin and Jerome Tisserand were nicely matched and partnered each other well. Tisserand showed nice elevation and ballon, taking the brisés right to the edge – and nearly to the downstage wing as he flew. Mullin’s arabesque balances held at the end of the développé hops that begin with a dégagé front were solid and nicely phrased, clearly showing the stop of one passage of movement before beginning another.
As important as the royal characters are to any production of “The Sleeping Beauty,” no production succeeds without a first-rate Carabosse and Olivier Wevers is all this and more. How he/she hisses and snarls as she impels the dramatic tale forward is in itself practically worth the price of admission. This Carabosse makes an art of sarcasm, particularly in the Prologue where she takes her revenge on the court for being left off of the invited fairy guest list.
I was happy to see the leggy Laura Gilbreath cast as The Lilac Fairy of Wisdom. Her backward steps into piqué arabesque and her control of the linked piqué into double pirouette that must finish in a fondu/tendu à la seconde were controlled and exact. Gilbreath seems to be one of those highly intelligent dancers who can tackle any assignment fearlessly.
Lastly, it’s important to mention what I’ve come to term the “mighty PNB orchestra.” They provide the excellent musical support that drives and uplifts the dancers and us, the adoring and delighted audience, led by the baton of Allan Dameron.