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