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Sleeping Beauty Insight Day


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This was a wonderful event to go to, and I thought it was very well organised, with some excellent speakers. I'll keep it brief though, as I watched the performance of Manon tonight too!

The day started off with Dina Makarova (no relation to Natalia Makarova, though they work very closely together) discussing the designs of Natalia Makarova's production of the Sleeping Beauty by Luisa Spinatelli. She explained various points in the ballet where gauzes where used for effect, and the way the action is shifted to different parts of the stage.

She also showed us some props (the masked head for part of Carabosse's entourage and the Lilac Fairy's wand) as well as some beautiful examples of tutus.

The day continued with Agneta Valcu rehearsing Lauren Cuthbertson and Ivan Putrov as the Lilac Fairy and the Prince in the Vision scene.

It was very interesting to watch how the mime told the story-there isn't any dancing as such at this point, the Lilac fairy has a staff which she uses to conjure up the vision of Aurora.

Following this Natalia Makarova rehearsed Ivan Putrov and Alina Cojocaru as the Prince and Aurora. It was fascinating to watch Natalia Makarova going through the steps with them. She was so sure of exactly how it needed to be, often demonstrating by rolling up her trouser legs, and it was great to see how here corrections became real on the dancers.

We then saw Natalia Makarova rehearse Zenaida Yanowsky as Carabosse- I wasn't expecting this to be the role that Zenaida would be rehearsing at all ( I was thinking more Lilac Fairy) but she was amazing. I found her mesmerizing to watch especially because of the way she can contort her body. She danced with abandon, though at one point lost her grip on her staff and sent it flying into the audience!

The afternoon sadly had no more dancing in it, but the talk by Pauline Greene on the musicality of the score was excellent., Her main themes were the way the Sleeping Beauty is a symphonic ballet score (due to the recurrign themes of Carabosse and the Lilac Fairy, in different guises throughout the ballet), and the overall Russian-ness of the ballet-discussing how Tchaikovsky included many folk dances from the era including, most bizarrely a waltz in 5 beats not 3, for the Sapphire Fairy!

The day was concluded by Giannandrea Poesio who gave a fascinating talk on the historical background to the ballet. Apart from an abounding knowledge of the many symbols within the ballet (from Aurora as the Sunrise to Cattalabutte as a well known political figure of the time) he also put the ballet into its political context.

Anyway, that's the end of a lovely day, I am sure there are loads more things I have forgotten to add in which some other people will remember! xx

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Yes, I went for the Sleeping Beauty Insight Day in the Linbury Studio (as well as Manon in the evening!) and it proved to be such a fascinating day.

Definitely my highlight was the Masterclass with Natalia Makarova, Alina Cojocaru, Ivan Putrov and Zenaida Yanowsky. Alina and Ivan rehearsed the wedding pdd from Act III. I think intensive rehearsals for SB have only just started. (Makarova worked with the dancers for several weeks last year but while they were rehearsing other ballets, she had to fit in rehearsals whenever she could get them.) So it was far from polished, and Alina and Ivan were still working out the lifts and turns and the effort was quite evident. Makarova drily remarked that she thought they were perfect, but it seems that they are not! Still, it was brilliant to watch Makarova give Alina lots of technical corrections and see Alina translate them into her body. I think Alina seems to go a little bit further than any other ballerina – I couldn’t believe how high and for how long she managed to sustain her arabesques and attitudes. Near the start of the pdd, you know when Aurora is holding onto the Prince’s hand with one leg extended forward, leans a little forward and then leans back, Alina kept going back, back, back, much further than most dancers go! She also rehearsed solos from the Vision scene and again the wedding pdd. At one point after a series of chainee turns and pirouettes she finished with a flourish in arabesque and Makarova commented that this was the ‘dangerous version’. Everyone else was doing the ‘safe version’ where the ballerina ended up on both feet for more stability. (Alina said though she didn't know if she would keep it.) The 10th of March won’t Alina’s debut-debut as she has danced the role already in Kiev, but it’s the one I’m most looking forward to anyway. So as a result she was very self-assured and she knew exactly what she wanted to do, though she still deferred to Makarova’s judgement. Anyway it was a thrill to watch her in rehearsal. There’s a cleaness, a clarity to her dancing that I just love and is all the more apparent up close, plus it’s nice to see her so confident – a change from the shy girl I saw last time I saw her a year ago in a Bayadere Masterclass! I was just a little sorry that Ivan had to walk off so soon as I think they both wanted to get as much time with Makarova as possible.

So I thought the day couldn’t get any better but it did! I was so surprised that Zenaida Yanowsky was dancing Carabosse as it’s a role I’ve always associated with older dancers, character dancers, not talented young principals in their twenties at their height of their careers! And she was magnificent to watch! Her first steps were hunched over her stick shuffling to the front, darting poisonous glances side to side, and you couldn’t believe the movement she has in her upper back, in her shoulders and face. The music just seemed to move through her body and it was the first time I saw incredible musicality present in the dark chromatic cords of Carabosse’s entrance. Zenaida also showed her sense of humour, waggling her eyebrows at the audience to great laughter. It was wonderful to see this beautiful ballerina throw herself into the role of this ugly and evil fairy! I was in awe, watching her swirl ferociously around the stage, twirling her stick violently, at least until Zenaida lost her grip on it and it came flying towards me in the second row!! Luckily no one got hurt but I had a very hands over my eyes, “eek!” moment there. It was also great to see Makarova running from side to side, crouching down in horror, reacting to Carabosse as the Queen, as a courtier or whatever. I think she must still relish the chance to perform even to an audience as small as this! (394 seats btw). She urged Zenaida in her entrance to climb up her stick more gradually with each shuffle, as if gathering her power. And she demonstrated how she wanted Zenaida to have the trembles rock through her body – wonderful to watch! Makarova still seems to be creating the choreography on Zenaida I think – they were trying out new things, new steps and ways to hold the stick, especially towards the end. I think it’s a marvellous role for her. It’s got to sting a little being the only female principal not dancing Aurora (which I find disappointing as I think she certainly has the technique and radiance to be a great one) but if she’s dancing on first night then it will be a truly exceptional cast and I can’t wait! It does make me wonder who else will dance Carabosse – it’s so vigorous I wonder if it will be too demanding for Anthony Dowell or Monica Mason. I can’t imagine any of the other company ballerinas performing it so maybe it will be for the guys then.

The other Masterclass was given by Agneta Valcu, rehearsing the mime scene between Lauren Cuthebertson as the Lilac Fairy and Ivan Putrov as Prince Florimund in the Vision scene. The mime had been simplified, we were told, to make it more coherent and we probably wouldn’t see as much as we were used to. This was only Lauren’s 2nd rehearsal so Valcu demonstrated all the mime to Lauren first. The (heavy!) staff had to be moved as if a part of her body, so she had to keep her arms wider and grander. She also told Lauren and Ivan that they could be flexible with the mime and music, but that the gesture for “beautiful” used when describing the LF’s description of Aurora had to be at the very height of the music. And she reminded them not to ‘speak’ at the same time! The observations Valcu made were so interesting. The Lilac Fairy is godmother not only to Aurora but to Florimund as well so she knows exactly where Florimund is (geographically and his state of mind!) and that it is the perfect time to bring them together. The question she asks Florimund “Are you sad?” is just a conversation starter – she knows that the conversation will turn to love! Anyway this scene has no dancing for the Lilac Fairy so she is in heels with a long dress. I’m a little confused as I thought the Lilac Fairy would not be a dancing role at all but she might be on pointe in the prologue so does anyone remember?

Anyway, the rest of the talks by Dina Makarova, Pauline Greene and Giannandrea Poesio were fascinating and so informative, though I have to apologize, I dare not try to reproduce everything Greene and Poesio said as I'm sure to get the facts wrong - they went into so much detail! The sets and costumes designed by Luisa Spinatelli, with whom Natalia Makarova has a long and close working relationship with that Dina Makarova presented to us are really lovely. The whole production is based and inspired on the original Russian version. There are very few stage parts she said so it is ideal for touring. It is mostly made up of different gauzes for the backdrops and one that we peer through for the prologue, a platform at the back that has a permanent presence and has mirrors as front panels to reflect the painted floor. The colours – pale pinks, greys and greens from the model look very subtle and it is reminiscent of the Kirov version that came to Convent Garden two summers ago.

So a brilliant day, roll on Sleeping Beauty! After months and months of waiting the anticipation had waned a bit but I’m all excited now!

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Re: Lilac Fairy costuming after the Prologue. Apparently, in the original production, Marie Petipa wore a sort of dress that used to be called a "shift-chemise", and she wore heeled shoes. Any movement she has after the Prologue does not really require any pointe work, and so this version acknowledges that part of the character's past.

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That sounds like a wonderful event, much richer than the little promotional chats we sometimes get here. As I wasn't there I may be presumptious in commenting, but in terms of Tchaikovsky's music being so much better than the usual um-pah-pah, I don't think Delibes should be forgotten. And Gade and Hartmann had written A Folk Tale for Bournonville, which is great music; Petipa was familiar with that ballet, I remember reading, and there are some interesting parallels between them. So the music for Sleeping Beauty didn't just appear out of nowhere. And besides, there has been much greater choreography to Minkus than to anything by Beethoven and Mahler!

I was also struck by the comment that Sleeping Beauty was a political tract--I am overstating it, I am sure. Since everyone connected with the ballet were basically civil servants, no ballet could damn the Tzar, but I think there are much richer undertones to Sleeping Beauty. Vzevolovksy loved France and wanted to celebrate its culture. He thought the old Russian culture was backward, and wanted it more western, though I am probably oversimpliying things. He encouraged Tchaikovsky as opposed to the more Russian composers like Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov, and Sleeping Beauty (which was his original idea) is very much a vision of a perfect, rational, and civilized France as opposed to the more uncouth Russia.

The new/old Kirov version gives much more importance to the King and his being torn between justice and mercy, so I hope that isn't some of the mime that is discarded. It seemed to me that Sleeping Beauty (if the Kirov reconstruction is accurate) is also a meditation on the virtue of mercy over justice--Carabosse being justice. She is of course within her rights to be furious, but the Lilac Fairy, being mercy, is able to counteract the letter of the law. That is what the King decides in the knitting needle scene--justice says they should be beheaded, but mercy wins out. In the old version, Carabosse too is forgiven and is invited to the wedding (though well-guarded!), so evil is not destroyed by some overarching power, the court makes a very personal decision to forgive Carabosse. It is hard to imagine that this was only a tract for the king (though in part I am sure it was); it is such a strong message for everyone.

I also think that the Lilac Fairy should be a principal dancer--it certainly used to be! I remember when the fairies in the prologue were often principals.

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the event sounds wonderful. lucky you to have attended. :)

one query to anoushka, who writes about the music expert mentioning:

"most bizarrely a waltz in 5 beats not 3, for the Sapphire Fairy!"
i assume this is the 5/4 variation which RB audiences are familiar with (ashton's choreography). what i want to ask is: did the expert really refer to it as a "waltz"? if so, do you understand why?

i am not trying to be 'clever', or to contradict you, but rather to discover if there is something about this piece of music which i have not previously understood (because i would not consider it a 'waltz).

thank you for your information. :(

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