Sleeping BeautyCasting and Reviews
Posted 15 April 2006 - 09:43 AM
Posted 15 April 2006 - 09:49 AM
Posted 15 April 2006 - 11:10 AM
As a rule I am not a fan of story ballets. Forsythe is more my style. But last nite, for the first time I think, I put myself in the place of simply watching the quality of the dance: the actual dancers doing their moves with skill and emotion. I gave up my usual drug of allowing the power of the choreography, intensity of the relationships, the "power of the message", the transendance of the music, to transport me. I tryed to be more in the place of a "talent scout" and appreciate simply the execution, and how well the dancer creates the role. Well, I discovered how great Sleeping Beauty can be as a vehicle to observe lots of different dancers being showcased (even in short roles). Normally I would not go to see additional performances of Sleeping Beauty because it does not move me like say Artifact II, or even In the Night, do. But by going to 3 performances in the right combination I will get to see a bizillion dancers one after another. I am excited!
And, BTW, a thanks to all in this forum. It has been the discussions I've read here in the last couple of months that have shown me the possibility of this. Without the insights you all have given me, I likely would have responded to Sleeping Beauty last nite in my predictable way of enjoying it, but being a bit bored, while looking forward to the upcoming Jewels program.
Now to get a few chores done, make the call to the box office, and get my ass back down to McCall Hall at 7:30
Posted 16 April 2006 - 01:02 PM
On a related topic, I know that right now there's lots of comparison going on between the Russell/Stowell years and the beginning of Boal's tenure (I've certainly done my share, and will do more -- it's the nature of my job) but I don't want to cast it all black and white. You may disagree with the choices that R&S made (I certainly did with some), but except for new hires like Korbes and Pankevitch, the dancers we see are very much a result of their work.
Posted 16 May 2006 - 09:18 PM
The ballet opens with the courtiers, assembled for Aurora’s christening. There are a little over a dozen on an essentially empty stage. With the women in jade and deep blue silk dresses, with puffy sleeves, deep necklines, and skirts flowing from under the bustlines, the stage resembled a boudoir, a celebration of ladies-in-waiting and court intimates of a family christening.
This is a Sleeping Beauty full of mime and characterization. Catalabutte is not a buffoon or lackey, but rather a man used to managing. Uko Gorter looked a bit like a portrait of Henry VIII. There’s a terrific scene early where the baby Aurora is brought out in her cradle, and the women beg Catalabutte to see the baby. He thinks and after warning the ladies to keep their voices down, allows them to. This is the foreshadowing of no generosity/leniency going unpunished; as the ladies make a “noisy” fuss around the baby, he makes them disperse, taking charge again.
The King and Queen enter, with Otto Neubert looking like a portrait of a czar. The King clarifies with Catalabutte that he’s forgotten nothing, and once assured, the accompanied lifting entrances of the six fairies and Lilac Fairy begins; they are accompanied by pages who carry the representation of their presents on pillows, and Lilac Fairy’s retinue of attendants. After the six fairy variations, their pages place the pillows at the foot of Aurora’s cradle, completing their blessings. Lilac Fairy speaks to the royal couple first, and at the sign of trouble -- the mimed warning of each of three heralds in succession describing Carabosse, the realization between the King, Queen, and Catalabutte that Carabosse has been left off the party list -- she sends her page offstage, her blessing withheld.
Carabosse has a flying solo entrance; she has no minions. The scene is entirely mime, with the accusation of Carabosse to the Queen – who mimes “talk to the King” who mimes “take it up with Catalabutte” -- Catalabutte’s humiliation at Carabosse’s hands, the fairies begging for clemency, Carabosse’s mimickry of the fairies, the curse, the courts horrified reaction, the King and Queen’s pleas, and Lilac Fairy’s mitigation of the curse, clinched when her page presents the pillow at the foot of Aurora’s cradle. The scene ends with a tableau of fairies and courtiers, all gesturing upstage left to the baby Aurora.
This production is rich in mime throughout the Prologue and Acts I and II, night and day from the Mariinsky version I saw in Berkeley last fall. This is most vividly seen in the Prologue, from Catalabutte, the King, and the Queen in shorter sections which set up for the Lilac Fairy and Carabosse in the longer scenes. Act I opens with a mime scene in which Carabosse, in disguise as a hag, is discovered by Catalabutte and is threatened with hanging, first by him and later by the King, who has the hag dragged to downstage center, with sentries guarding her with giant lances. The Queen intercedes to save her. Then there is extended mime by Carabosse, no longer in disguise, gloating at the fallen Aurora, with a fight scene in which Carabosse stabs the Duke of Aquitaine to death, followed by the mitigation of the curse by Lilac Fairy, her spell on the Duke of Aquitaine’s sword, and the sleeping spell she places on the kingdom, with the help of four nymphs on flies.
In Act II there is mime between the Countess, who is out to land the Prince, the Prince, the Prince’s and the Prince’s tutor. After the Prince sends everyone off to the hunt, the Lilac Fairy appears, and through mime prompts the Prince to describe why he’s sad, and describes the antidote. After the Vision Scene, she leads him off to the palace in a boat, and after they disembark to the forest outside the palace, where he fights off two hags. The Prince is having no luck and repeatedly asks for directions (), which the Lilac Fairy gives him. Finally she leads him to the Duke of Aquitaine’s enchanted sword (next to the DoA’s skeleton), where he cuts down the bramble and finds the sleeping Aurora. Before he kisses her, Carabosse sneaks up behind him, and he stabs Carabosse to death with the sword. The mime in Act III is limited, as the act consists of the court dance, the presentation of the King and Queen, the procession of the divertissement groups, the divertissements, the Grand Pas de Deux, and the final Mazurka. In the Apotheosis, the King and Queen give their blessing to Aurora and the Prince, as the entire court forms a wedge in homage to an upstage center tableau of the Lilac Fairy, with a final pose towards the audience by Aurora and the Prince.
What is equally important is that the ballet is as rich in characterization as in mime, from the King and Queen to the Dukes to the fairies to the divertissement characters, to the courtiers (particularly in Act II), to Aurora and Desire to the traditional character parts, Catalabutte and the Tutor, to the two antagonists, Lilac Fairy and Carabosse. This was not a production in which any of the strictly classical dancers could simply do the steps without having engaging in the drama; doing so would have looked completely out of place.
I saw three casts, and the dancing and characterizations were very different from cast to cast. The three Auroras I saw were Kaori Nakamura, Carrie Imler, and Mara Vinson. (I had conflicts with both of Barker’s performances, and my plans to see the Pantastico’s second were scuttled by a last-minute family visit from the East Coast.)
Nakamura, who danced opening night, was brilliant, literally and figuratively. If she had tried to personify a 16-year-old, I don’t think it would have been convincing, temperamentally. Instead, she personified the qualities that Aurora would have. For example, in Act I being presented to society for the first time she portrayed shyness upon being told that she was going to be married off to one of the gussied up Dukes, wonder, curiosity, and, living up to her responsibility to show that the fruits the fairies had bestowed upon her had taken hold. Dancewise, she was like a well-cut precious stone: precise and sparkling. In the Vision Scene, she was an ideal, and in the final act, she matured into a young woman who could take her place at her husband’s side, the most Pamina-like of the three Auroras. (Which is a good thing, because Desire isn’t the brightest bulb…) Her solos weren’t quite introspective, but they seemed to tell an inner story, and had the arc and development of dramatic poetry.
Carrie Imler took a different approach, playing a 16-year-old girl realistically. She took choosing her future husband seriously: her Act I solo was a true getting-to-know-you exercise, and the four Dukes could not risk standing on the side; she engaged them fully. This reminded me of Christopher Gable’s description of a very young Lynn Seymour during the balances in the Rose Adagio: “[w]hat she did was hold on and look that guy right in the eye, as if to say, ‘You’re really rather lovely. I quite fancy—‘ And then she noticed the next chap…’Oh, you’re even better,’ and then more thrilled, to the next, ‘Gosh, you’re terrific…’” In Seymour’s case, this was to mask the fact that she didn’t have the strength to do the balances – “So we’ve lost the balances, but what we’ve got is a lady choosing between four fellow, which is what the choreography is about” – while in Imler’s case it was the opposite: she’s so technically strong that she could have relied upon the “circus element” in the solo and in the “Rose Adagio,” but, instead, she focused equally on the drama, and not out of necessity. She was a delicious vision, more flesh and blood, and she still retained a tad of girlishness in Act III.
Mara Vinson danced the role for the second time with the Company in the performance I saw, and imbued the role with a sense of newness. This is a very English production, and Vinson was the most English of all proportionally. While both she and Nakamura are short, Nakamura gives the impression of being long-legged, while Vinson has a physical geometry that in a role like Aurora gives a sense of balance and stability, with blossoming turnout, diamond-shaped retires, and soft, full rounded arms, a classical vision in Act II. Vinson was a bit more formal than Imler, if not reserved. Vinson’s Aurora grew throughout the performance; by Act III she was ready to learn to become a wife and future queen. Her Act III solo was especially radiant.
The Desires (Florimund, in the program)
Olivier Wevers played it straight. Which means he came across as a bit of a dope. (Desire must ask the Lilac Fairy at least ten times what to do, where to go, etc.) Batkhurel Bold was having none of this, playing a more imperious and distant Prince, with an occasional bout of enthusiam. Le Yin also refused to play, not quite as distant as Bold, but with a bit more arrogance, particularly in the Hunting Scene. All three danced the Act II and Act III solos beautifully, but Le Yin had a bit of Bolshoi-like spark in Act III: nothing out of character, but with a little extra “oomph,” with his completely pointed feet and high, high demi-point that never wavered in pirouettes.
The Lilac Fairies
On opening night, Carrie Imler danced Lilac Fairy. If she had been the second from the left instead of in the middle and all the fairies had been in grey, during the group scenes it was clear from her dancing who was in charge of this group. I’m not sure she was completely convinced of the character. She reminded me a bit of Mrs. Incredible, living a quiet life in the superhero protection program until called back to be Elastigirl. As much as she protested, not wanting badness to happen, but knowing that it was inevitable, she truly wanted to be in the middle of the action. Imler looked invigorated when called to duty, and the look she gave Carabosse, when Carabosse tries to interfere with Lilac’s mitigation of the curse, should have left Carabosse in a post-phaser-blast pile of mineral dust.
Stacy Lowenberg performed in the last performance I saw. While she was a first among equals in the dancing parts, she was a fabulous, vivid mime. All of her gestures and facial expressions were clear, and they played to the back of the house. She also had a remarkable quality of radiating an abstract Goodness, as if she had that Glenda the Good Witch traveling bubble, particularly in the scene where she introduces herself to Carabosse and mitigates the curse.
Carla Körbes was Lilac Fairy in the middle performance. Her dancing and mime were so very beautiful, but that doesn’t begin to account for her impact in this role. Her presence – it was too organic to be called an interpretation -- conveyed immortality and timelessness, and as she flowed in dance and mime, her Lilac Fairy led by example of how the world would behave if it were ideal. She had no doubt of her place in the world. In my mind, there can be no doubt that she is, indeed, a true Ballerina.
I saw Carabosse played twice by Timothy Lynch and once by Olivier Wevers, and they were two very different witches. In Lynch, I saw the young fairy who was pushed out of the group for not being pretty enough or polished enough and for making unintentional verbal faux pas. A fairy-turned-witch through embitterment and watching the pretty people get ahead. But having little personal power of her own; hers was the result of a bitter brew.
Wevers’ Carabosse had extraordinary presence and sense of power. I got the impression that she wanted respect due to her, but I can’t imagine her ever wanting to be anything but the head fairy. (And then making a clean sweep all of those dainty girls, and replacing them with Fairy of Moxie, Fairy of Forthrightness, Fairy of Athleticism, Fairy of Cleverness, Fairy of Fortitude, Fairy of Industry…) Everything else would be too one-dimensional. Sadly, she opted for the Dark Side. Wevers left out not a single detail -- expertly mimicking each fairy as she plead for Aurora and Catalabutte -- up through the curtain call, as she imperiously offered her hand to the conductor during the company bows.
Highlights: the beautiful mime in Carla Körbes’ Fairy of Beauty. The soft-as-a-cloud skimming steps on a backwards diagonal of Maria Chapman’s Fairy of Purity. The upward tilt of the chin and head held high on the neck of Brittany Reid’s Fairy of Temperament, bestowing upon Aurora a bit of spine. Jodie Thomas and Rachel Foster’s sparkly Fairy of Joy. A trifecta of Fairies of Wit -- Mara Vinson, an image of Diana in her final upward finger points, Rebecca Johnston and her beautiful feet, and Kari Brunson with her brightness. Kara Zimmerman as a warm, patient, and engaged presence as Fairy of Generosity. Zimmerman’s interaction with the parents and Aurora in this solo made me wonder if Marcia Dale Weary gives a multi-year course in stage interaction and dramatic presence, and doesn’t let anyone graduate if they don’t pass it.
The opening number is the Gold (2 men) and Silver (1 woman) pas de trois. It’s a lovely, classical dance, with solos and pas de deux for the two men, performed superbly by Körbes with Lucien Postlewaite and Anton Pankevitch and Vinson with Jonathan Porretta and Benjamin Griffiths in the performances I saw. I prefer it to the Bluebird pas de deux. I suspect I’m in the minority on this, but luckily the majority was there to appreciate the very fine performances of Jodie Thomas and Jonathan Porretta. We were very lucky with all of our cats, particularly Maria Chapman’s sensuous, perfumed Persian paired with Jordan Pacitti’s playful Puss, and Mara Zimmerman’s girly-girl cat pursued by Nicholas Ade’s randy Puss. (He’s so gentlemanly in Q&A’s…) I saw Eames’ Red Riding Hood and Karel Cruz’ fox in all three performances, and she was charming, but I’ve come to realize that Peter Martins really had it right in his Sleeping Beauty: I think it was a brilliant stroke of stagecraft in the best sense to have a child Red Riding Hood and to have an ensemble of children swing the forest trees. It gives a visual and theatrical break in the middle of the divertissements.
Must Be Noted
The company was so invested in the overall drama and characterization, that it’s hard to know where to begin.
- *Uko Gorter’s multi-dimensional Catalabutte.
*Fleming Halby’s last performances at PNB, as the loyal Tutor, dancing blindfolded through a gauntlet of mocking ladies with riding crops.
*The court ladies in the Hunting Party scene, especially the two who watch the Prince’s final rejection of the Countess with glee, and mock her behind her back all the way backstage.
*Barry Kerollis, who has the perfect face and profile to pull of those white wigs. All he needed was a mole.
*The beautiful tendu back of one of the heralds. The proud carriage of one of the bassinet bearers. Hopefully, the future Princes.
*Mime, mime, and more beautiful mime.
*Lucien Postlewaite’s Duke of Bordeaux. He was going to get that princess by being the most attentive, gracious, and appreciative of them all. Every minute that character was onstage. It's too bad that pesky Carabosse went and ruined everything.
*Maria Chapman. In one night, she danced a lovely Fairy of Purity, a sultry White Cat, and an unbelievably realistic and detailed Countess. She is a remarkable actress who can change her face subtly, yet make it register to the entire house, so that, for example, only a flash of hurt and humiliation at the Prince’s rejection was visible, before her pride and upbringing literally saved face. Any one of these performances would have been a triumph in itself. All three in one evening was a knockout.
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