State Theater of Easton
Thursday, January 25th, 2018
by Winfield Maben
Founded by former Prima Ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre and currently directed by Nikolay Anokhin, the State Ballet Theatre of Russia brought their rendition of Petipa’s classic, Sleeping Beauty, to the State Theatre in Easton on Thursday night.
Like most of Petipa’s works, Sleeping Beauty revels in its own spectacle, boasting elaborate sets and costumes. This production managed to keep a sense of this spectacle despite its traveling nature and boasted a robust cast of fifty five dancers who filled out the stage magnificently. The ballet portrays the classic story of Princess Aurora, cursed by the evil Carabosse to sleep eternally until she is awakened by true love’s kiss, a tale that will likely be familiar to viewers of all ages.
The ballet’s opening takes the audience to the extravagant celebration of Princess Aurora’s birth, whereupon she is bestowed gifts from several fairies including the quick and delightful Canari and the elegant Lilac. The introduction of the Evil Fairy, Carabosse, was immensely entertaining as she melodramatically strode about the stage with her minions with delightfully evil charisma. Following a timeskip the audience now finds themselves at the sixteenth birthday of Princess Aurora where she performs a partnered dance with four suitors before Carabosse makes her second appearance, tricking the princess into pricking her finger and allowing the curse to take effect. This somber scene closes Act One and sets the stage for a triumphant Act Two.
The second act begins with the introduction of Prince Désiré who is shown a vision of Aurora by the Lilac Fairy and sets out to free her from her curse. Of course, he succeeds and the two fall in love instantly. The remainder of the second act takes place at the wedding of Aurora and Désiré, which is attended by a myriad of characters from beloved fairy tales. The ballet culminates in the extraordinary Grand Pas de Deux between Aurora and Désiré which showcased the talents of both dancers in their resplendent white costumes.
The production values were limited due to the travelling nature of the company, but the backdrops and wings were well painted and gave the audience a sense of the grandeur and spectacle typically found in the work of Petipa. The costumes heightened this, dazzling the audience with their extravagance, yet did not distract from the movement itself. Overall the technical prowess displayed by the cast was above average with standouts being Princess Aurora, Prince Désiré, and Princess Florine. Appearances by familiar fairytale characters such as Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Big Bad Wolf helped to keep things entertaining in the final act and the dancers performing the roles did so with an exaggerated gusto that made them delightful to watch. However, aside from these standouts the ensemble did little to leave a lasting impression and as a result the production lost a bit of the spark that makes the works of Petipa so entertaining in the first place.
This production is certainly worth seeing if you’re a casual fan of ballet or Petipa’s work and would serve as a wonderful introduction to the world of Classical Ballet for those unfamiliar. As far as classical ballet goes, you could do far worse than to attend this production, the talented dancers in the principal roles and ensemble standouts are sure to keep you entertained throughout the two hour and fifteen minute runtime of the performance. However if you’re looking for a radical new take on a classic work, you should look elsewhere as this production is traditional through and through.