When in 1986 Kenneth MacMillan resolved the “choreographic jigsaw puzzle” of The Sleeping Beauty by adding “missing” episodes to the ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa a century earlier, he essentially extended the lifespan of this ballet for at least another century.
Thanks to its unique combination of classical choreography with modern dancing language, it is as contemporary and easy-to-watch today, as ever before. English National Ballet’s production, with its exquisite costumes by Nicholas Georgiadis, combining the classic style, borrowed from paintings by Van Dyke and Tiepolo, with Tim Burton-esque characters like Carabosse, is an exciting three-hour journey that takes your breath away.
MacMillan once explained how The Sleeping Beauty made him aware of ”the value of the pas de deux – how it can be the climax of an entire ballet.” And it is the climax, indeed. Act III showcases virtuosic duets representing Gold, Diamond, Silver, and different fairy-tale characters attending the wedding celebrations of Princess Aurora and Prince Desire. While the dance of Puss in Boots and the White Cat excites the audience with its cutting edge, contemporary choreography, the duet of the Bluebird and Princess Florine, performed by Fernando Carratala Coloma and Julia Conway, astonishes with sophisticated technique.
The production is also full of opportunities for the soloists to shine. From the opening prologue with beautiful solos by the fairies, Alison McWhinney dancing as Lilac Fairy, is an absolute star. The feast for the eyes then continues throughout the bewitching dances by Princess Aurora and Prince Desire in the Act III. In her debut with the English National Ballet, Maria Alexandrova, former prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre, astonished the public with her level of technique and her ability to convey emotions and feelings through movement. In fact, there was no Maria Alexandrova on stage. There was only Princess Aurora – whether as a real character or as a vision of Prince Desire – but it was only her, with her own sorrows and joys. In a duet with the ENB’s Lead Principal Aaron Robison, known for his flawless technical bravura, Alexandrova seemed to feel very confident on the London Coliseum stage.
The whole experience of this Sleeping Beauty production is about harmony. Classical elements of the performance are balanced with contemporary ones; young dancers are counterbalanced by more experienced ones, and choreography is in absolute harmony with the magnificent score by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. All this creates a unique fairy-tale experience which is certainly worth a visit.
The Sleeping Beauty runs at London Coliseum until 16 June