SPECIAL: Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty

This Pick is specially dedicated to Alice.

I would also suggest to others who are a little daunted at the prospect of reading a review about a Ballet, to read my review on Love Actually.

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 this Ballet at my local theatre, The Courtyard, to see the touring Moscow Ballet La Classique (tour dates here). I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. This would be the first Ballet I have ever seen, so I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting. I would suggest to anyone going to one to buy a programme, which I was wisely advised to do so. Not only do you get a little idea on what you’re about to watch, but it’s a nice memento to keep too.

When we did get to the theatre, I found that we had booked “the best seats in the house”. Up front, level with the stage, the action a mere couple of feet away. I didn’t know whether to feel pleased or daunted, but being fairly tired due to a late night last night, I sat down giving it less thought than I usually would have, and reclined in the 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 being christened, and Fairy Carabosse casts a spell on her so she will die on her sixteenth birthday. However, The Lilac Fairy, who has not given her gift, changes the spell so she will fall asleep along with the kingdom for one-hundred years, until she is awoken by a kiss from a Prince.

Now briefly explaining the plot, it’s her sixteenth, she pricks her finger, they all fall asleep, skip one-hundred years, Lilac Fairy finds good Prince, Prince kisses Aurora, all wake up, have a wedding, fini! Now let’s get to the good bits!

I’m fairly familiar with the stage of this theatre. I had performed on it multiple times, and watched performances there countless times. Sitting up to 460 people, the stage is smaller than people think, so I was interested in the staging instantly, especially since I heard that ballets need as much space as possible.

When the curtains drew up, I was pleasantly greeted with a large golden ballroom. While our particular seats did help in giving us a good viewing point, the detail of the scene was very appealing. Shimmering under a bright wash of straw light, the openness of the stage helped to make the space look bigger and brighter than it actually was.

It was then that the King and Queen enter the stage. I must say that the costumes are rather beautiful. Gold linings and sequins brought me into the ballet in an instant, and accompanied by the elaborate set design, I was already taken away with the story. Its good that they could draw in the audience so early.

Now, the dancing.

I can’t really give a qualified or professional opinion on ballet, as I really don’t understand its elements but during the performance, I concentrated on the movements to see what I could pick up. From the snippets of Strictly Come Dancing that my mother pulled me into watching, I will try and judge the dancing.

I had to say that I enjoyed the ballet element immensely. There were points that I could suddenly appreciate how taxing it must be for a ballerina. Each movement is carefully thought out and crafted beautifully, and how everything was so precise. It is obvious that they were professionals by miles. 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.

I’ve got to say though, I found that the ladies of the production left the gentlemen in the dust. It was if they had the stamina of a stallion, leaving the guys exhausted after one routine.

The story was clear through the dance as well. For those who do not know, there is no dialogue in a ballet, as they express the story through the body. Even people in heavy clads of costume, like the King or Fairy Carabosse managed to depict the story perfectly, like the fury of the King finding needles in the kingdom or Carabosse making her curse on baby Aurora. That is some excellent choreography which is over one-hundred years old!

There were some interesting additions to the ending, which was the climax of the ballet. Including other fairy-tale members, like Puss in Boots and Red Riding Hood, were met with nostalgia with me, which surprised me.

Other scenes like the forest and countryside were of simple set design, but effective. The subtle ragged ends of the forest curtains made the scene feel untamed, and lights like the gobos of branches used for Carabosse’s scenes created a dizzying and claustrophobic feel.

Finally, there was the music from Tchaikovsky. Again, I was surprised; I knew a couple of the pieces. It went well with the choreography, and the rhythm of the dance fitted perfectly with the excellent overture of Tchaikovsky.

I needn’t make a conclusion. Everything I need to say I have said. It should be pretty obvious anyway. For a first ballet, it was magical.

So something a little different. 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 wrote.

See you all soon!


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