Carolina Ballet is closing its 2013-14 season with its production of Sleeping Beauty, presented in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium with live accompaniment by the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle. Every aspect of the production was a delight, from the performances to the luscious costumes to Tchaikovsky’s beautiful score. Carolina Ballet artistic director Robert Weiss, although adding some of his own choreography here and there, wisely chose to stage the lion’s share of the ballet using the original choreography by 1890 Russian choreographer Marius Petipa (1818-1910).
Margaret Severin-Hansen danced the role of Aurora on opening night, and she was every inch the fairy-tale princess. Severin-Hansen effortlessly achieves the marriage of opposites that all ballet dancers hope to accomplish: strength and delicacy, power and fluidity, technical brilliance and expression. Her footwork is flawless, her port de bras elegant and articulate, her torso supple and eloquent — and yet she also fully embodies the character of Aurora, telling her story and drawing the audience into her world. She is, quite simply, a joy to watch. Her performance of the “Rose Adagio” was a master class in strength, poise, and grace.
Richard Krusch, as Prince Désiré, matches Severin-Hansen’s Aurora step for step. His Désiré is a passionate, devoted suitor, entranced first by the vision, and then the reality, of his Sleeping Beauty. Whether in grand allegro or petit allegro, Krusch’s jumps always excite and satisfy. Here the beautifully extended leg, there the impossibly stretched arch … and the height … and the solid, yet always cushioned, landing. Like Severin-Hansen, there is an effortlessness to Krusch’s dancing, which allows the audience to relax and enjoy the beauty of the movement.
Lara O’Brien was the Lilac Fairy, and Yevgeny Shlapko was her charming cavalier. O’Brien’s long, lovely limbs exulted in the choreography; and she was every inch the warm and gracious fairy godmother who, in the end, makes everything alright.
Alicia Fabry (Beauty), Randi Osetek (Goodness), Elice McKinley (Eloquence), and Cecelia Iliesiu (Energy) were the remaining Fairy Godmothers. Their variations in both the Prologue and Act III sparkled. Weightless hops on pointe, quicksilver bourrées, buttery sissonnes, and sweeping renversés … it was a pleasure to watch these oh-so-familiar divertissements performed so well.
Lindsay Purrington portrayed Carabosse, the only fairy who — thanks to the forgetful Master of Ceremonies, Cattalabutte (Marin Boieru) — does not receive an invitation to Aurora’s christening. Offended and angered by this oversight, Carabosse, instead of blessing the princess, tells the horrified king and queen (Misha Nikitine and Emily Younger, respectively) that, on her 16th birthday, Aurora will prick her finger on a spindle and die. Purrington’s imperious Carabosse is all sharp angles and flashing energy. Her legs are deadly threats, kicking aggressively and at times even wrapping themselves around the evil fairy’s intended victims.
The Raven, powerfully danced by Eugene C. Barnes, III, was her henchmen and dancing partner. Also notable were Nikolai Smirnov and Amanda Babayan, as Puss in Boots and the White Cat, and Lindsay Turkel and Sokvannara Sar, as Princess Florine and the Blue Bird.
In fact, with the exception of a couple of very minor bobbles, the dancing in Sleeping Beauty was exceptionally strong throughout. All of the dancers seemed well rehearsed and comfortable in their roles. The corps works was quite good, the fairy attendants and nymphs moving and breathing as one. And I always enjoy the Carolina Ballet men — a well-executed entrechat six is a wonderful thing.
The production values for Sleeping Beauty were also top-notch. David Heuvel’s costumes are, in a word, stunning. From spun-sugar tutus to court costumes in jewel tones and shimmering gold, the performers were arrayed in the finest of finery — truly a visual feast — and the scenery by Jeff A. R. Jones provided a suitable backdrop.
Ross Kolman does his usual magic with lighting, from the dark and eerie green glow in Carabosse’s scenes to the golden glow of the Act III wedding scene. In addition, in Act II of the Carolina Ballet production, Carabosse transforms into a dragon, which the prince must battle in order to enter the castle and rescue Aurora. The dragon, created by Paperhand Puppet Intervention, is a visual treat and adds nicely to the story line.
Tchaikovsky’s score came alive in the talented hands of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle, under the direction of the Carolina Ballet‘s musical director, Alfred E. Sturgis. The live music made the performance, and I hope that the two organizations can perhaps find an “angel” somewhere who will agree to underwrite the cost of live music (even if only for the full-length ballets) on an ongoing basis. Richmond Ballet has been the beneficiary of such a grant for many years, so it can be done.
In short, Carolina Ballet has saved the best for last with its Sleeping Beauty. It is a jewel of a ballet, and the Carolina Ballet dancers shine in it.
SECOND OPINION: May 10th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/05/10/3849168/carolina-ballet-adds-live-music.html.
The Carolina Ballet presents Tchaikovsky’s SLEEPING BEAUTY at 8 p.m. May 16, 2 and 8 p.m. May 17, and 2 p.m. May 18 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $30.25-$78.00 (including fees).
BOX OFFICE: BalletLine: 919-719-0900.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/836166.
SHOW: http://www.carolinaballet.com/program/sleeping-beauty and https://www.facebook.com/events/207665686061069/.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinaballet.com/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaBallet, and https://twitter.com/CarolinaBallet.
The Sleeping Beauty (La Belle au bois dormant”) (1697 fairy tale): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Beauty (Wikipedia).
Charles Perrault (French author, 1628-1703): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Perrault (Wikipedia).
The Sleeping Beauty (1890 ballet): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sleeping_Beauty_%28ballet%29 (Wikipedia).
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian composer, 1840-93): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyotr_Ilyich_Tchaikovsky (Wikipedia).
Robert Weiss (Carolina Ballet artistic director/CEO): http://www.carolinaballet.com/pages/staff-directory-entry/robert-weiss (Carolina Ballet bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Weiss_%28choreographer%29 (Wikipedia).
Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle (orchestra): http://www.chamberorchestraofthetriangle.org/ (official website).
Viki Atkinson danced professionally in musical theater for a number of years and later shifted her focus to choreographing for theater. Locally, she danced in the North Carolina Theatre productions of Cabaret, My Fair Lady, Man of La Mancha, Oklahoma!, and West Side Story. Additional performance credits include Kathy in Company, Peggy in Godspell, and the title role in Gypsy. Later, Atkinson lent her dance expertise to Spectator Magazine, serving as chief dance critic from 1987 to 1999. She also holds a degree in Dance Education from UNC-Greensboro; and she has taught extensively in a variety of settings, including Meredith College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Appomattox Regional Governor’s School (Petersburg, VA), and the School of Richmond Ballet. She was also on the faculty of the Raleigh School of Ballet for 10 years and directed the dance program at Martin Middle School for four years. Viki Atkinson recently returned to Raleigh after living in Richmond for six years, and is thrilled to be back in North Carolina! To read more of Viki Atkinson’s Triangle Review reviews, click here. To read more of her CVNC reviews, click here.