By KATRINA GULSTAD
Ballet West’s Feb. 6 performance of “The Sleeping Beauty” was like an untimely alarm clock for the experienced theater-goer. The local troupe sought to transform Capitol Theater into a fairy tale world, but just when the dream seemed real, a buzzer sounded and reality set in.
The classic ballet based on Perrault’s fairy tale and set to Tchaikovsky’s score is worth seeing for the core artistry alone. But like a stay in an uptown hotel, the fancy setting and pillow mint do not make up for the lumpy bed.
The overall performance merited applause, yet lost its sparkle in the smaller details like costumes, staging and synchronicity of the dancers.
Ballet West Artistic Director Jonas Kage said in a news release, “classics should not be left as museum pieces, but presented as dynamic tales of theater, music and dance that make sense to the new generation.” Kage succeeds in one sense — the ballet makes sense — however, it does not make an impact.
Perhaps the best example was the Act III dance, “Grand Pas de Deux,” shared between dancers Tong Wang as the Prince and Maggie Wright as Aurora. The pair began well. Their movements flowed together and portrayed the love their characters shared. Each move by her was carefully supported by him. The resulting emotion drew the audience in as though a part of the wedding — until a mistake broke the dancers’ flow and the audience’s trance. In a side-by-side turn, the Prince bobbled and came out of sync with Aurora. Though he quickly recovered, it was too late to regain the same mood.
Also, members of the troupe were similarly out of sync during chorus dances. Arms and legs moved nearly together, but not quite. And in ballet, even one wrong movement can stand out.
The group dances work much like a chorus line, where timing is of essence. But the dances of the courtiers, village maidens and village youths were not quite in sync, and lost meaning because of these mistakes in timing.
Nevertheless, the performance was not without talent. Despite his Act III error, Tong Wang’s stage presence cannot be denied. His athletic leaps nearly brought the audience to their feet, as did the grace of his partner, Maggie Wright.
Wendee Fiedeldey and Jeffrey Rogers, as Princess Florine and The Blue Bird, respectively, were the highlight of Act III. Their light, fluttery moves effectively mimicked those of a true bird, and gained the audience’s attention and praise.
Acts II and III were well worth staying past intermission. The dancers don brighter, more eye-catching costumes, changing from the predominant peach of the performance’s first half to a crisper blue and green. And the scenery, designed by Peter Cazalet, gives the effect of the enchanted forest without taking attention away from the dancers.
While the Prologue and Act I tell how Princess Aurora was doomed to a hundred-year sleep, the following two acts tell the love story of Aurora and the Prince.
Amidst the somber faces of the courtiers was Bene Arnold as the animated Fairy Carabosse, the ballet’s antagonist. Arnold brought life and levity to more otherwise mellow scenes in the Prologue and Act I. Her deep-green costume and extreme facial expressions spotlighted the character’s evil nature. Arnold’s talent showed more in her expression than in her dance, for her character does not perform many technically-difficult solos. Though a bit overzealous, Arnold dominated her scenes through expression.
But none of the dancers could have portrayed such emotion without the accompaniment of the Utah Chamber Orchestra.
Live music has its pros and cons, but in this case the benefits overrule any mishaps. The Utah Chamber Orchestra was not mistake-free. There was an occasional wrong note or instrument out-of-tune. But the orchestra had a rich tone that carried the performance.
Tchaikovsky’s score is fairly difficult, with finger-tying solos for the piccoloist, clarinetist and others. Reminiscent of “The Nutcracker Suite,” the score for “The Sleeping Beauty” has an overall upbeat character. The bass instruments and horns help to create mystery, while the lighter woodwinds bring a livelier tone.
The orchestra, like the scenery, is successful in not overpowering the dancers. The music complements the overall mix and adds to the performance.
Ballet West’s “The Sleeping Beauty” was an overall solid performance. To the trained eye, mistakes were present, but most likely not to the general audience. And mistakes like faulty steps can change from performance to performance.
“The Sleeping Beauty” will be performed 7:30 p.m. at Salt Lake City’s Capitol Theater through Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee that day. Tickets can be purchased through the ArtTix Box Office or at any Albertson’s ArtTix outlet, or by calling 355-ARTS. Discounts are available for students and groups of 15 or more.
Ballet West will tour “The Sleeping Beauty” to Ogden’s Egyptian Theatre Feb. 16 and 17. For ticket information call the Ogden Symphony Ballet Association at (801) 399-9214.