The Sleeping Beauty: A ballet once seen, never forgotten

Some ballets change lives. Children remember their first Nutcracker, of course, or maybe Coppelia or Swan Lake. But for many children it’s The Sleeping Beauty that leads them to the nearest dance class, and after that – for very few – a dance career.

The glitter and glamour is only part of the attraction. Children react to the enchantment of the fairy tale characters, the magnificent Tchaikovsky score, the narrative that moves from joy to fear, from a birthday celebration to a disastrous encounter, then the impossible dream of happy-ever-aftering.

The Australian Ballet’s new The Sleeping Beauty, premiering last week in Melbourne, is going to inspire children to follow the yellow brick road to dance, a road that’s full of trap holes, but one that can end happily with a life long love of dance.

I fell in love with ballet as a child when my mother took me to a season of the Borovansky Ballet’s Sleeping Princess in New Zealand.

Looking back, I can see that the costumes and designs were threadbare, the technique weak, and the production values – well, what values?

None of this mattered. My first Sleeping Beauty/Princess sent me on a lifelong path.

David McAllister’s new Sleeping Beauty reminded me once again of the impact the ballet can have on children.

The designs by Gabriela Tylesova go far beyond the usual pastel prettiness of most Sleeping Beauty productions. The last act ends in a gold rush of chandeliers, confetti, sunburst lighting and organza trains worn by Aurora and her Prince as they marry.

The Sleeping Beauty is a ballet about classicism and ballet classicism rather than the dramatic tale of love lost and found, or found and lost, as told in La Sylphide, Giselle, Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet or Manon.

If you scroll down you can see some similarities in the look of Sleeping Beauty, such as wigs, columns, arches, painted backcloths and gold, gold everywhere.

Tylesova’s is the most sumptuous production I’ve seen. When I interviewed her some time ago, she told me she had ‘fun’ designing the ballet and I think the fun element can be seen in every act.

Some critics found the designs overwhelming but if you look at the recent Alexei Ratmansky production for American Ballet Theatre, there is similar detail and perhaps similar excess in the costumes, however the longish tutus and breeches refer to the look of the original Petipa production.

One major difference between the ABT sets and the Australian Ballet’s are the columns. Tylesova’s quirky curved columns dominate the stage throughout most of the ballet and in the last act, obscure the corps de ballet dancers at the side of the stage.

For those who haven’t or can’t seen the production, it will be telecast on Foxtel later this year, along with a ‘making of The Sleeping Beauty’ documentary. The detail of every costume and setting will be clear on the screen.

My review of the Australian Ballet’s production for dancetabs.com

here

3 Comments

  1. Robert Woodley
    Posted November 4, 2015 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Valerie,

    The Borovansky publicity shots are from Royce Rees / Hal Williamson who had the Williamson contract in the 50’s and 60’s.

    Royce Rees started work for Hal Williamson, (photographer, Reiby Place, 1946-1957, then 14 Lang Road, Centennial Park to 1960). Rees set up his own business 1961-1968 (12 Cunningham Street) and then 1969-1974 (17 Parker Street) and 1975-1976 (154 Elizabeth Street)

    The State Library of NSW has the negatives: http://www.acmssearch.sl.nsw.gov.au/search/itemDetailPaged.cgi?itemID=153078

    Robert

  2. valerie
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 3:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks Robert, I’ve updated the photo with that detail

  3. Robert Woodley
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    The fifth photo is from the same collection

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The Sleeping Beauty, Nureyev 's production, Paris Opera Ballet, photographer unknown

The Sleeping Beauty, Nureyev ‘s production, Paris Opera Ballet, photographer unknown

Artists of the Australian Ballet in David McAllister's The Sleeping Beauty, 2015,  photo © Jeff Busby

Artists of the Australian Ballet in David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty, 2015, photo © Jeff Busby

Matt Donnelly, Lana Jones and Lisa Bolte in The Sleeping Beauty, the Australian Ballet 2015,  photo © Kate Longley

Matt Donnelly, Lana Jones and Lisa Bolte in The Sleeping Beauty, the Australian Ballet 2015, photo © Kate Longley

The Sleeping Beauty, choreography, Alexei Ratmansky, American Ballet Theatre, photo © Souheil Michael Khoury

The Sleeping Beauty, choreography, Alexei Ratmansky, American Ballet Theatre, photo © Souheil Michael Khoury

The Sleeping Princess, Borovansky Ballet, photographer unknown

The Sleeping Princess, Borovansky Ballet, photographer unknown

Artists of The Australian Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, photo © Jeff Busby

Artists of The Australian Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, photo © Jeff Busby

Artists of The Australian Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, photo © Jeff Busby

Artists of The Australian Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, photo © Jeff Busby

Denys Nedak and Paloma Herrera, The Sleeping Beauty, American Ballet Theatre, photo © Souheil Michael Khoury

Denys Nedak and Paloma Herrera, The Sleeping Beauty, American Ballet Theatre, photo © Souheil Michael Khoury

The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet, photo © Damir Yusupov

The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet, photo © Damir Yusupov

The Sleeping Princess, Borovansky Ballet, The Sleeping Princess, Borovansky Ballet, photo © Royce Rees / Hal Williamson, negatives at the State Library of NSW

The Sleeping Princess, Borovansky Ballet, The Sleeping Princess, Borovansky Ballet, photo © Royce Rees / Hal Williamson, negatives at the State Library of NSW