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