When you think of the ballet ‘Sleeping Beauty’, you think you have seen it all, the Princess waiting to be kissed by a prince, an evil fairy putting a death spell upon the baby princess and a good fairy who comes out to save the day. ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ of Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) has all those classic twists and turns, but the ballet is something else entirely with its fairy dusts, magic and dancers who manage to make this classical ballet fresh and enchanting once again.
However, the opening of ‘the Sleeping Beauty’ is full of surprises that have nothing to do with flying fairies or the snake (or snakes) that is like a necklace for Carabosse (the Wicked Fairy), because we witnessed two beloved company dancers Elle Macy and Dylan Wald getting promoted to soloists. Before the Friday opening night, Seattle audiences had been holding their breaths for their well-deserved promotions, and now, we are ready to watch them take the stage by storm. Congratulations to the both of them.
But how could ‘the Sleeping Beauty’ exist without Princess Aurora, Prince Florimund, Lilac Fairy and Carabosse? The opening night has principal dancers Lesley Rausch as Princess, Jerome Tisserand as Prince, Lindsi Dec as Fairy and Jonathan Porretta as Carabosse. Considered as one of the most difficult roles for ballerinas, Princess Aurora is seen as a milestone for many. Third time in this role, Rausch dances not only with her partners but also with the famous score of Tchaikovsky. Her fluidity of movements and character development gives her audiences the best gift ever, an evening of pure beauty and artistry. Her partner of many ballets, Tisserand is likely the most prince-like Prince Florimund in look and in movements. His skill to take on this fairy tale role and make us believe in such a character complements his impossibly high and quiet jumps.
Even though most audiences are in to watch the seven fairies bestow gifts upon the princess and dance their famous variations, I am there to watch Porretta become Carabosse. A dancer who dances with his body and soul, Porretta is not there to just be the bad guy; he is there to enchant us all with a tiny flick of his fingers, a loving caress of the snake around his neck and a silent gloating smile that lets us in on what is really happening with the story. As someone who has seen him in the role for three times, I would gladly go again just to see his Carabosse. (Porretta is set to retire at the end of this PNB season; PNB’s Season Encore will include a special tribute to him: https://www.pnb.org/season/season-encore/)
Since ‘the Sleeping Beauty’ is a milestone for many, this time PNB has five principal castings for Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund. On Saturday Matinee, we welcome two exciting debuts of principal dancer Laura Tisserand as Aurora and the newly-minted soloist Wald as Florimund. Though taking on these technically-difficult roles for the first time ever, Tisserand and Wald take on these roles with poise and grace. Another highlight of this ballet remains to be the Bluebird and Princess Florine pas de deux. Both of opening night and Saturday Matinee’s castings embody the spirit of blue birds that make us want to sing and fly along with them.
Like ‘Swan Lake’s 32 pirouettes, people come to see ‘the Sleeping Beauty’ for its signature choreography such as the Rose Adagio in Act I where the ballerina achieves some near impossible balances with only one leg supporting the whole body. However, PNB’s ‘the Sleeping Beauty’ is much more than a showcase of impeccable techniques; it is a three-hour window where everyone gets to dive into this classic story, where magic and fairy dust reign, and where we are awed by the talent and artistry on stage, moved by the dancers who are at this level because of all the hard work, and invited to a celebration of love, ballet and art.
‘The Sleeping Beauty’ runs at McCaw Hall till February 10th. For more information and to buy tickets, please visit: https://www.pnb.org/season/sleeping-beauty/