BWW Reviews: New York City Ballet Presents Peter Martins' Ambitious Staging of THE SLEEPING BEAUTY
There exists in ballet a trifecta of works that represent the pinnacle of classical ballet's golden age. I am referring to the Petipa classics Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty, which bring together grand, impressive scores and narrative dancing to transport the audience into the realm of fairy tales. Balanchine paid homage to this Russian Imperial Ballet legacy with his versions of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Current New York City Ballet artistic director Peter Martins picked up where Balanchine left off and presented his ambitious production of The Sleeping Beauty in 1991.
Though met with mixed reviews at its premiere, Martins' Sleeping Beauty is generally considered a success and one of his strongest choreographic endeavors to date. The scaled down version that is shown may suffer from a clumsy narrative and some minor choreographic dissonance, but its many charming aspects allow for a pleasant and surprisingly fresh glimpse into one of the world's most treasured ballets. In my last review I mentioned how nice it is to see one of the world's premier dance companies doing what it does best. Perhaps full-length story ballets like The Sleeping Beauty are not quite what City Ballet does best, but this production should not be so easily dismissed.
In Martins' Sleeping Beauty the passing of time and space is established by graceful transitions between the gorgeously crafted backdrops and set pieces. At the end of the first act the Lilac Fairy lays a spell over the kingdom, allowing its inhabitants to sleep peacefully until their princess is awakened by true love's kiss. The effect of the rapidly encroaching ivy during The Spell section was breathtaking and keenly executed. In keeping with the ballet's history the mise en scene paid tribute to the grandeur of Louis XIV France, while the costumes were equally lavish and ostentatious.
Overall the principal roles in Beauty were very well danced. Technically the dancers were stupendous. All the soloists brought vivacity and focus to their respective roles and should be applauded for their bravura performances. My problem with this program lay predominately with the dancing of the corps de ballet. The sharp and jagged clarity for which the company is renowned doesn't quite fit this particular style of ballet and, unsurprisingly, I found myself yearning for the rounded refinement of the Russian Mariinsky.
On Wednesday night Megan Fairchild danced Princess Aurora. She brought a youthful energy to the role of the ingénue, but was perhaps a bit too forceful in her portrayal of the chaste sixteen-year-old princess. Still, the swiftness of her feet evoked a sense of urgency that is marked in all teenagers, and her strength as a classical technician was firmly established by the end of the second act.
The evil fairy Carabosse was played by principal dancer Maria Kowroski, who brought a sense of humor to this sinister character and threw herself into her interpretation with abandon. She played up the dark and scorned fairy perfectly. Her gestures were as clear as her intentions. When I watch dancers like Kowroski I usually find it difficult to peel my eyes away from their legs and feet--tonight I felt that way about her face. Apart from being a beautiful dancer Ms. Kowroski is also, undeniably, a very strong actress.