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Dance review: Traditional ballet and dramatic stunts abound in Ballet West’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’

SHARE Dance review: Traditional ballet and dramatic stunts abound in Ballet West’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’

"THE SLEEPING BEAUTY," through Feb. 26, Ballet West, Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South (801-869-6900 or balletwest.org); running time 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission

Though Katherine Lawrence has talked about how she is thrilled to try on the part of Carabosse in Ballet West’s current version of Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” on opening night she performed as Aurora, just as she has in years past.

Instead, Allison DeBona played Carabosse, the Fairy of Jealousy, who interrupts the festivities for Princess Aurora’s christening and curses the baby to die from pricking her finger on a spindle on her 16th birthday.

Before Carabosse arrives, each fairy has a chance at a solo number. The Fairy of Joy (Jenna Rae Herrera) was ecstatic and her hands trembled with energy as she danced. The Lilac Fairy, or Fairy of Wisdom (Emily Adams), led them all with her elegant, triumphant movement.

Then Carabosse’s entrance struck quite a contrast, as the stage became washed in green light that followed her every movement. Her minions crouched and somersaulted as they danced with her. She repeatedly stole the king’s pompous adviser’s wig, and she often mocked everything the Lilac Fairy did. Her sass was apparent and took over the stage, as did her flying acrobatics and the firework pyrotechnic displays that she disappeared into when she made her exit.

It’s easy to see why Lawrence might find it a fun, different challenge to take on the role of such a character as Carabosse. But as Aurora, her challenges were more technical than dramatic.

In the “Rose Adagio” in Act I, Princess Aurora is celebrating her 16th birthday by flirting with four different suitors, all dressed in styles from ancient, foreign lands who are humorously competing for her affections. Lawrence does the same dance with all four of them, the most challenging part most likely being the one-legged attitude that she held for several minutes. She switched from one suitor's hand to the next, her hand trembling each time as she released and held the pose on her own before grabbing the next suitor’s hand.

Lawrence continued to dance and dance throughout the rest of Act I, with only small breaks in between. And, as far as the audience could see, she never seemed to lack for energy. It only makes it more amazing to imagine that, according to the program, another Ballet West principal dancer, Arolyn Williams, in a previous year performed the whole act on a broken foot.

The highlight of the ballet was in Act II when the fairies show Prince Desire (Adrian Fry) a vision of the sleeping Princess Aurora, convincing him to be the one who kisses her awake. Lawrence danced on stage as the vision of Aurora, fading in and out of the other dancers, always just out of Prince Desire’s touch. In the few fleeting moments when they danced together, they often would not be facing each other, or she would flit away moments later, an ethereal dream that kept the prince wanting more. Accompanied by a gorgeous cello solo, this moment was emotional and magical and made the audience feel the prince’s longing for the beautiful, lost princess.

DeBona as Carabosse made another entrance after this, trying to prevent the prince from waking Aurora, and her defeat is equally as dramatic as her previous scenes — again with more flying and pyrotechnics that in fact distract the audience from the big moment when the prince kisses Sleeping Beauty awake.

The final act is what Lawrence referred to in the program as “pure classical ballet.” The wedding includes fairy tale guests such as Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood and her wolf, the Frog Prince and Beauty and the Beast, among others. Several of these guests performed long pas de deux numbers in the traditional style — they dance together, then the man dances alone, then the woman dances alone, then they dance together again. This formula is repeated at least four times, ending with Princess Aurora and Prince Desire. It’s filled with impressive dancing that is meant to show off a ballet company's soloists, but could feel like a very drawn out ending to anyone who isn’t used to the traditional style, or to a child who came just to see the fairy tale characters at the end.

All in all, those who are accustomed to a traditional ballet such as “The Sleeping Beauty” will not come away disappointed, as Ballet West’s version offers every aspect such regulars will have come to expect.

Content advisory: The ballet contains some sword play.

Email: mbulsiewicz@deseretnews.com

Twitter: mgarrett589