SPECIAL: Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty

For Alice.

So here is my special post! I’ve reviewed films, books, a play and a TV series (well, half of it), so I’m interested to see how this goes.

I went to my local theatre to see the touring Moscow Ballet La Classique (tour dates here). I would be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly nervous. This would be the first Ballet I have ever seen, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Buying a programme helped: not only did it unveil some idea on to expect, it’s a nice memento that I’m glad to have.

We had the best seats in the house: level with the stage, a couple of feet away. I didn’t know whether to feel pleased or daunted: surely a more appreciative person should have this seat? Will I even enjoy this myself? In the end, I swallowed my doubt and reclined into the newly refurbished seats to watch my first ballet: The Sleeping Beauty.I don’t think I need to explain the plot in great detail. Princess Aurora is cursed to die on her sixteenth birthday. However, The Lilac Fairy changes the spell so she will fall asleep along with the kingdom for one-hundred years. She pricks her finger, they all fall asleep, skip one-hundred years, a Prince kisses Aurora, all wake up, have a wedding, fini! Standard stuff, right?

I was interested in the staging, especially since I heard that ballets need as much space as possible and knowing that despite the four-hundred-and-sixty seat capacity, the space was deceptively small. When the curtains rose, I was pleasingly greeted with a lavish golden ballroom. The detail was very appealing. Shimmering under a bright wash of straw light, the openness created the illusion of a giant, glistening space. The King and Queen entered: their costume, too, was beautiful. Golden lines and sequins brought me into the scene instantly and accompanied by the elaborate set design.

I was sufficiently drawn in. Now, for the main event: the dancing.

I can’t really give a qualified or professional opinion on ballet, aside from the snippets of Strictly Come Dancing I’ve been roped into watching, I really don’t understand the elements that make for excellence. Despite this, I enjoyed the ballet immensely. I appreciated the work and effort that the dancers put in. Each movement is carefully crafted beautifully; everything was so precise. It was strange how you could concentrate on one part of the body, like a hand reaching out or a neck turning, and just see how graceful each movement was. Truly spectacular, with the female performers outshining the men tenfold.

One worry I did have was following the story, but this doubt was quenched quickly. Even people in heavy costume, like the King during his furious search for needles in his kingdom, or Carabosse conjuring her curse Even costumed people, were able to depict their actions and emotions with extreme clarity.

Simple set design choices were used effectively. Subtle ragged ends of the forest curtains created an untamed feel, and shadows of branches used for Carabosse’s scenes created a dizzying, claustrophobic atmosphere. The climax of the ending also gave way to a few unexpected surprises The inclusion of fairy-tale members like Puss in Boots and Red Riding Hood were met with fond nostalgia.

As the curtains fell again, I pondered over my initial fears. When I told friends what I was going to see, the stereotype of a boy going to a ballet was evident in their light-hearted teasing quips. However, those preconceptions were washed away in a spectrum of gourgeous colours and exquisitively graceful movement of limbs. I discovered a new admiration for this particular art-style. For my first ballet, it was magical.

I hope you enjoyed this different Pick! Next week I will be away, and I have another “special” post. It is the one that started it all off: the first post I ever wrote.

See you all soon!

Vinci

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