Fall Into Another World

Review of The Sleeping Beauty at Pacific Northwest Ballet by Tucker C


If the grey skies have got you down this winter, there’s a show in town for you. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty is the ultimate picker-upper; filled with fanciful and intricate sets and costumes, excitement, and breathtaking dance, Sleeping Beauty takes a hold of you and won’t let go until the curtain comes down.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty. Photo © Angela Sterling.

The first thing that strikes you about Sleeping Beauty is the sets. The pages of a fairy tale seem truly to have come to life on McCaw Hall’s stage. The austere majesty of the castle, with soaring columns and enormous thrones, is enough to arrest your attention in itself. And when Aurora falls into her slumber, ivy and forests take over the castle, crawling magically from all corners. Sleeping Beauty’s scenery is made only the more beautiful by the costumes. The gowns are detailed beyond belief, flowing, and elegant.

Inside of the dreamlike world that all of this creates, the dancers bring amazing new life and vivacity to an old story. At first, the dances of the fairies are whimsical, and happy. With carefree dances, the dancers bring you into the idyllic happiness of the story. And the choreography develops characters through dance—each of the fairies with their own temperament, Aurora’s majestic and graceful dances just before being cursed, and the dances of the many fairy tale characters at the end. Unfortunately, at some points along the way the choreography seems passionless, lacking the energy that the music evokes and that the dancers clearly wish to show. Often, you find yourself frustrated, waiting for the zeal and life that never fully comes.

But all of this takes a complete back seat to the indisputable high point of the show, the pas de deux between Prince Florimund and Aurora. Their dance is tender and slow at first, but then the two then began a series of acrobatic lifts and twists that will have you literally on the edge of your seat and holding your breath. They defy gravity and description, with lifts and pirouettes. But most amazing about the dance is their sense of controlled power and strength, the very grace that ballet at its core is all about.

Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale brought to life, complete with all of the fancy, magic, and splendor it needs. And from start to end, you find yourself completely fallen into another world, far from the grey skies and drizzle outside the door.

- Tucker C.
February 4th, 2010

The Sleeping Beauty
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Through February 14th

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