Saturday, February 23, 2013

Patience, My Beauty

Erica Pereira and Anthony Huxley in The Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Paul Kolnik
I sometimes wonder why certain story ballets continue to have a strong attraction to audiences. For example, New York City Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty, choreographed by Peter Martins including sections from Petipa and Balanchine... of course it's a age-old staple fantasy for children (mostly girls) that has been rendered in film and tv, in addition to dance. But it's also a densely layered ballet that requires a lot of patience from the viewer. Despite the accrued rewards, this very slow approach would probably not be taken by a contemporary choreographer.

Some of the elements that at once require patience but also add detail and depth:
  • The seemingly endless series of solos by the six multi-hued fairies, plus the head Lilac Fairy, who each represent a facet of a complete character
  • The fabled "Rose Adagio," performed by Princess Aurora, in which she is courted by four suitors. Meaning she does steps—including balances and promenades without changing legs—not once, not twice, but four times.
  • The Garland Dance (by Balanchine), when every child from a five-mile radius appears with flowers to waltz for a very long time
  • The "Vision" scene, when Prince Désiré "sees" Aurora courtesy the Lilac Fairy. She and a bunch of her fairy minions basically prevent the couple from uniting, so they run across the stage to opposite sides and keep missing one another for quite awhile, before eventually meeting up to dance.
  • A pretty long series of boat rides, when Lilac Fairy transports Désiré to Aurora's castle. Also helps indicate the passage of a century, when we last saw the real Aurora.
  • After a quick kiss, awakening, and proposal, the wedding celebration is marked by a series of guest appearances by your favorite fairy tale characters: Pusses in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Princess Florine and Bluebird, Court Jesters, and in this version, a nod to Balanchine's Jewels with variations by Gold, Diamond, Emerald, and Ruby. Oh, plus more dancing by the fairies, who reprise their themes.
It's a lot to absorb, but by the end, after the couple has wed and the music turns abruptly from major to minor to signify the onset of responsibility, we feel like we've been through a lot with these guys.

Notebook review of the February 17 matinee:
Tyler A & Tiler P. Photo: Paul Kolnik

  • Tiler Peck as Aurora: flawless as usual, but she's so confident and capable that she's almost becoming superhuman at this point. Is that a liability?
  • Tyler Angle as Désiré: I honestly don't know how he makes partnering look so easy. Strength, delicacy, and an brilliant sense of épaulement, which frames his partner. Plus, he resembles Nureyev just a little bit.
  • Teresa Reichlen as Lilac Fairy: a perfect role to show they way she commands space and always draws the eye, no matter who else is onstage.
  • Anthony Huxley as Bluebird: he's had an excellent season, and here's another tailor-made role for him to demonstrate his picture-perfect line, exactitude, and flitting speed.

Promotions were announced to close the season, and three men advanced to principals, where they are sorely needed: Adrian Danchig-Waring (hopefully, he'll continue to relax and trust his inherent skills), Chase Finlay (wow, such a fast track to the top; if it's not a record, it's close. Let's hope he sustains his energy and luminosity), and Ask la Cour (a bit lacking in personality and polish; has been languishing as a soloist for eight years). Additionally, eight who've been prominently featured throughout the winter season were promoted to soloists, in time for the spring season that starts in late April.

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