The Sleeping Beauty

National Ballet of Canada Review: The Sleeping Beauty

For a ballet that is so familiar with audience members of all ages, there were some surprises during National Ballet of Canada’s The Sleeping Beauty at The Kennedy Center  last night. Rudolf Nureyev’s 1972 production of this fairytale classic does not skimp on the grandeur and pageantry – the palace scene costumes by Nicholas Georgiadis are intricately gilded (with perhaps an excessive use of feathered headpieces) – and the choreography is chock-full of courtly processions, yet even this grandiosity is not enough to satisfy those expecting to see some of the more iconic moments associated with The Sleeping Beauty.


The most disappointing is the lack of presence of the Lilac Fairy. Although beautifully portrayed by Tanya Howard with her expressive arms and hands conveying a clear narrative and her smooth gliding across the stage in her full-bodied skirt, the most powerful fairy of them all does not dance; the Prologue variation that is most often performed by her is instead assigned to the “Principal Fairy”. The portrayal of the Lilac Fairy in this production is more of a Fairy Godmother-esque magical benevolence rather than a poised leader of the gift-bestowing fairies.

In this same vein, Carabosse’s role too feels somehow less important. Rebekah Rimsay is a wonderful wicked fairy, but the lighting and mise en scène do not provide her the spotlight and support that she deserves.

National Ballet of Canada - Sleeping Beauty - Heather Ogden
National Ballet of Canada's Heather Ogden in Rudolf Nureyev's The Sleeping Beauty. Photo ©Bruce Zinger

As Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund, Heather Ogden and Harrison James are a well-matched couple, both with light and lofty jumps complementing their youthful and regal presence. Naoya Ebe is the epitome of a Bluebird, his arms appropriately characteristic and his precise allegro footwork clear in every step he makes. His Princess Florine, Elena Lobsanova, is lovely and shines especially when dancing alongside Ebe. The timing between Pussycats Miyoko Koyasu and Siphesihle November is impeccable, she adorably coy in their playful pas de deux.

National Ballet of Canada - Sleeping Beauty (1)
National Ballet of Canada Artists in Rudolf Nureyev's The Sleeping Beauty. Photo ©Aleksandar Antonijevic

Aside from being a ballet that showcases dozens of soloists, The Sleeping Beauty is an ideal platform to display the corps de ballet. And it is in this realm that The National Ballet of Canada really shows to the world what they are made of. Whether it be as Aurora’s friends, Naiads of forest, or court dancers, the artists of the company demonstrate the finest synchronicity from head to toe. The significance of this accomplishment is not to be overlooked as it is such a strong indicator of the commitment and talent of the dancers and leadership to their art.

National Ballet of Canada will be performing The Sleeping Beauty at The Kennedy Center through February 2, 2020. 

national ballet of canada review  

Featured Photo of National Ballet of Canada’s Heather Ogden and Guillaume Cote in Rudolf Nureyev’s The Sleeping Beauty  © Bruce Zinger


Special thanks to

Kennedy Center

San Francisco Ballet Presents The Sleeping Beauty

San Francisco Ballet will perform Helgi Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty, a production that premiered in 1990. It is choreographed after Marius Petipa’s 1890 version, maintaining Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. This epitome of classical ballet is set in Russia in the 17th and 18th centuries, Jens-Jacob Worsaae‘s set and costume design reflecting this period in history.


Audiences will have the privilege of seeing professional dancers from one America’s most renowned ballet companies along with sixty students from San Francisco Ballet School, its training academy. In all, the cast will consist of 148 roles of which some of the most recognizable in the classical ballet vernacular will be seen: Princess Aurora, her Prince Desiré, Lilac Fairy, and The Fairy of Darkness (aka Carabosse). These principal characters are accompanied by the fairytale characters of Puss in Boots, The White Cat, The Enchanted Princess, and Bluebird, as well as plenty of fairies (of Tenderness, Generosity, Serenity, Playfulness, and Courage, to name a few) and nymphs. 

The Sleeping Beauty will be at SF War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco from March 9-17, 2019; more details can be found here and casting for the performances will be available here. There are several complementary events that will also be held:

  • February 23 @ 5:00pm – Ballet Talk about “Ballet, Kinesthetic Empathy, and Music Analysis in The Sleeping Beauty”
  • March 16 @ 5:00pm – Ballet Book Club at Chris Hellman Center for Dance
  • March 9. 10, 15, and 17 (pre-performance) – Meet the Artists one hour before curtain
  • March 13 @ 6:00pm – Pointe of View lecture with dance educator Mary Wood at SF War Memorial Opera House

national ballet of canada review


Source: San Francisco Ballet | Featured Photo © Erik Tomasson, Ellen Rose Hummel, Isabella DeVivo, and Jennifer Stahl in Helgi Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty Dreams Review: The Virtual and the Real Awaken Art Basel

Nestled amid the exciting visual and performing art events of Miami’s 16th annual Art Basel, Sleeping Beauty Dreams, played to a partially full house December 7 and 8 at Miami-Dade’s Adrienne Arsht Center. This version of Sleeping Beauty interpreted the moves of our heroine, Diana Vishneva, and projected her motions on a giant screen through the wonders of 3-D virtual technology. A confluence of sensory and visual challenges and stimulations, the innovative team behind the short-run production took the audience to new places and inspired new horizons for future marriages of sound, sight, and motion.


For the Friday night performance, Ms. Visheva was greeted by hundreds of her devoted fans, many of whom loved her judiciously during her 2003-2017 span at American Ballet Theater. Enjoying new horizons herself, the mother of a son who is now less than a year old charged forward from the opening scenes and did not relinquish her demanding and consistent pace throughout the evening.


As anticipated from the cryptic yet surprisingly accurate pre-performance press, the virtual reality technology was immediate and pronounced and was defiantly punctuated by basic tenets of Bauhaus and the visceral rewards of this electronic dance music sound, now popular in experimental art since the World War I era. In fact, the residue of Western, Post World War I Modernism permeated this piece, the residue of Isadora Duncan and the like who taught audiences to thrive on the acceptance that the center cannot and will not, and, in this ballet, perhaps is best when it did not hold. The much-touted 3-D technology created ongoing images on the screen that were at times in concert with the dancers on the stage and at times in contrast, creating tensions and tangles that are, no doubt, new to the world of dance and virtual realities. But in the end, it was the dancers, the humans, who drew the eye and inspired the mind, with the virtual presentation serving as a mere addition to the talent and potential of this interpretation of a Romantic classic set in a post-post-apocalyptic world and wrapped up in the residue of the 1980s.

As Diana Vishneva owned her monochromatic stage, start-to-finish, the audience enjoyed body gestures and gender positing often reminiscent of early Keith Haring graffiti art. Still, while the production was clearly rooted in Modernism, the 1980s homages were also clear and pronounced. This connection back to the Cold War West was, no doubt, welcomed by the audience clad in fashions harkening back to the same period, most notably the red Gucci fanny pack we saw donned proudly on a patron. Our culture is mad about the current 1980s Renaissance, demonstrating yet another reason why Sleeping Beauty Dreams hit so many salient spots in the current cultural consciousness. One hundred years in to the Modernist experiment, Vishneva and her company of nine helped to define marking and spacing on the screen by being rooted in the discipline and the talent of the terre. Further, the nine skirted accompaniments—the males clad in white mesh skirts and, temporarily, metallic red topics—were in league with Vishneva, making gender as fluid in time and space. Beginning, middle, and end, it was as if the technology on the screen became more and more etherical as the movements of the dancers became more concrete.


To be clear, Vishneva was the center—the one who could not be held. Her movements were so precise—so close to the form—like a metronome or a drummer, and this perfection allowed for the mid-passages of symmetrical arm movements, reminiscent of Siddhartha and Eastern dance values. In Hindu art, the moving arms represent battling cosmic forces, and the Lead gave her Miami audience precision with her arms—her weapons.


With all the elements at her disposal – earth, wind, fire, water – Vishneva was, as kitchy as it may seem to say it – the steam off the electronic dance music borne of the Bauhaus messenger – Thijs de Vlieger of Noisia. The playfulness of de Vlieger’s day job with Noisia was obvious in his musical composition for this ballet that played more like a soundtrack than a score. De Vlieger’s vision was jarring and unsettling and a pastiche of postindustrial sounds that further showcased the discipline of Vishneva’s long-limber legs and arms. 


Those limbs connected so effortlessly on her own frame and were shared so generously in moments with her masculine foil, the Prince, Marcelo Gomez. Ever the striking Brazilian, also of American Ballet Theatre fame, Gomez toyed with his own gender identity and was made physically and emotionally unattainable in his unique shirt dressing, a white ‘totally 80s’ silhouette from costumer Bart Hess. Hess’ designs put the final coat of veneer on the thin layer of a subconscious bubble that the audience was invited to navigate during the inaugural performance of Sleeping Beauty Dreams. A second show followed Saturday in preparation for the 2-night New York run from December 14-15 at the former movie palace, The Beacon Theater.

Featured Photo © Sleeping Beauty Dreams

Jeanne Fuchs also contributed to this review. She is a Professor Emerita in the Department of Comparative Literature and Languages at Hofstra University.  She has written many noted books and articles on French and American literature. A former ballet dancer from The School of American Ballet and Assistant to Tanaquil Le Clercq for The Ballet Cook Book, Jeanne also worked with Jerome Robbins.