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New York City Ballet

'The Sleeping Beauty'

by Colleen Boresta

February 7, 2010 -- Lincoln Center, David Koch Theater, New York

After “The Nutcracker,” “The Sleeping Beauty” is probably the favorite ballet of children (and adults who never quite grew up).  The story is a well-known fairytale and young dancers often take part in the performance, especially in the Garland Waltz section.  Peter Martins’s streamlined version of “The Sleeping Beauty” seems to be choreographed especially for little viewers.  In some adaptations of this ballet the story can be lost amongst all the dancing.  Martins’s version allows the narrative to shine through.

The ballet begins with the christening of Princess Aurora.  Due to a mistake made by the king’s aide, Catalabutte, the fairy Carabosse has not been invited to this royal event.  She crashes the christening and declares that when Aurora turns sixteen she will prick her finger on a spindle and die.  The Lilac Fairy softens the curse by saying that Aurora will not die, only sleep for 100 years.

In Act I (“The Spell”), Aurora celebrates her sixteenth birthday.  Carabosse, disguised as an old woman, gives the Princess a bouquet of flowers.  Hidden within the flowers is a spindle upon which Aurora pricks her finger.  The Lilac Fairy returns and makes sure that Aurora, the king, the queen and the entire court fall asleep for 100 years.

 In the next act (“The Vision”), the Lilac Fairy shows a bored and unhappy Prince Desire a vision of Aurora.  He falls in love with her and begs the Lilac Fairy to lead him to the sleeping Princess. When he finds her the Prince of course awakens Aurora with a kiss.  In the last act (“The Wedding”), Aurora and Desire get married.  The guests include fairytale characters who provide entertainment for the court.

The February 7th matinee of “The Sleeping Beauty” will stay in my mind’s eye for a long time. I have seen the ballet at least 20 times, but this “Sleeping Beauty” is at the top of my list.  That is especially due to the phenomenal performances of the two principal dancers.  As Aurora, Tiler Peck is the perfect vessel for Tschaikovsky’s unforgettable score.  During the Rose Adagio, when the sixteen year old Princess is being wooed by four suitors, Peck’s flawless balances fuse with the glorious music to create breathtakingly exciting dancing.  Peck’s acting is as masterful as her technique.  She doesn’t just dance the part.  Peck actually becomes Princess Aurora.  In “The Spell” act (Act I), Peck really seems like a radiant sixteen year old eager to face life and love.  She is ethereal in ”The Vision” act (Act II), and a happy confident young bride in the final act.  And Peck glowed throughout the entire ballet, just one of many reasons why she is the best Aurora I have ever seen.

Gonzalo Garcia’s Prince Desire is the perfect match, showing his love for Aurora through both his dancing and his acting.  He is an ardent and attentive partner who also excels in his solo dancing.  Garcia has great high leaps with plush landings and his double air turns into arabesque are dazzling.  Peck and Garcia have a passionate chemistry usually not seen in fairytale ballets.

Janie Taylor is miscast as the Lilac Fairy.  Her dancing lacks the grandeur and expansiveness the role requires.  Jennifer Ringer’s Carabosse is an aging beauty who gleefully takes her revenge on an innocent child when she’s not invited to the christening.  Ringer’s portrayal shows that she has the makings of a superb character dancer.

Antonio Carmeno is a decent Bluebird but his ballon doesn’t have enough height to really awe me.  Abi Stafford is all wrong as Princess Florine.  She’s missing the lightness and delicacy of movement so essential to the part.  A huge audience favorite is Fionna Brennan as the adorable Little Red Riding Hood.  Faye Arthurs and Adrian Danchig-Waring perform the roles of the White Cat and Puss in Boots with a great deal of humor.  As the court jesters, Vincent Paradiso, Troy Schumacher and Giovanni Villalobos are spectacularly high flying.

New York City Ballet’s “The Sleeping Beauty” is close to a perfect ballet.  The costumes and sets are opulent and the orchestra plays the magnificent Tschaikovsky score flawlessly.  I’m glad New York City Ballet performed the ballet for two solid weeks this winter season.  I only hope Peter Martins doesn’t make us wait another three years to see his it again.

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