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A captivating Sleeping Beauty from the Royal New Zealand Ballet

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Kate Kadow as Princess Aurora

The Ryman Healthcare Season of The Sleeping Beauty

Royal New Zealand Ballet
Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland
Until November 6th
Then Bruce Mason Theatre, Takapuna November 11 & 12

Reviewed by John DalyPeoples

This week on the stage of the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Kate Kadow, in the role of Princess Aurora, appeared to inhabit a different world from the dancers around her. Her dazzling display combined supreme elegance, technical fluidity and emotional richness that was electrifying in its power and urgency. She showed that she was not just great classical dancer but a sparkling gem of pure movement.

The Sleeping Beauty ranks among the top dozen ballets. It has a simple story and superb choreography  but it also has social, political and psychological complexity, plus a density that makes it a rich dance work.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s latest production manages to combine all the elements of the fairy tale, pantomime and the tragic fable along with riveting theatre.

The work was originally performed before Tsarist Russian court audiences in 1890. What they saw on stage for most of the production was their own environment reflected back to them: a hierarchy of positions and roles all acted out within the confines of richly decorated interiors, with courtiers and noble people who knew their rank and position in a fantastically structured society.

For many of them, The Sleeping Beauty was something a cautionary tale about the ever present terror of political and social unrest.

It is the evil Carabosse with her attendants who make manifest this lurking terror, which imprisons the court for a hundred years. It seems remarkably prescient of Petipa (and Tchaikovsky) that 100 years after the first production in the 1990’s Russia would emerge from its period of political and social slumber.

There is also a strong psychological aspect to the work with the interplay between the forces of good and evil jousting for the mind of the young princess.

The ballet is filled with fabulous dance; elegant courtly dances, some almost abstract work by the Carabosse’s attendants, touches of rustic folk dance and ravishing displays of classical ballet.

Kate Kadow shines throughout and even managed the tricky Rose Adagio superbly. That sequence, seemingly invented by a demented choreographer, requires the dancer to balance on point while promenading with her four suitors.

It is as technically challenging as many of the great gymnastic routines and both cast and audience spent a few breath-stopping moments while she completed the movement.

From the second act on, when she dances with her Prince Désiré, her remarkable solo work was replaced with some incisive duos as she danced with Laurynas Vejalis.

Vejalis’ muscular dancing was enthralling and in his first minutes on stage brings an intense feeling of melancholy to his work. His power and tautness conveyed a strong sense of sexuality that is later liberated in his dancing with Kadow. Their “dream sequence” duo in which they dance barely touching is moving and poignant, the spaces between them pulsing with energy.

Vejalis has only been a soloist with the company since the beginning of the year but is already a talent to watch.

The six Fairies representing various attributes of the royal Princess all danced with lightness and effervescence, projecting the joy of the child’s birth while The Fairy Cavaliers who accompany them gave brilliant athletic performances representing the more physical qualities of courtly nobility.

The Lilac Fairy is the strong moral force in the ballet and Sara Garbowski provided an enveloping  protective warmth for the young princess as well as dancing with a steely determination when confronting Carabosse.

The minor roles of the four Prince suitors and Prince Désiré’s attendants provided brilliantly restrained performances.

Loughlin Prior in the role of Master of Ceromonies apperared ot have taken on the mantle of Sir Jon Trimmer with a elegant but slightly whimsical performance

During the Chapter Four Wedding sequence where everybody shows of their skills Leonora Voigtlander and Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson in their cat masks added a whimsical humour to the dance, while Katherine Skelton (Princess Florine) and a superbly nimble Kihiro Kusukami (Bluebird)  provided a delightful reflection on loves constancy.

Kirby Selchow as Carabosse

Kirby Selchow gave an inspired interpretation of the wicked Carabosse in her tightly bodiced enormous black dress. Her ferocious dancing with dramatic flourishes  brought a sense of drama and dread to the work. Her attendants in their reptilian masks, provided a sense of malevolence and her attendant Morfran danced by Paul Mathews came into his own as one of the Aurora’s suitors

The highly coloured costumes, especially the pinks  verged on the garish but within the colour schemes of the nineteenth century Russian court were highly appropriate.

The sets provided a magnificent setting for the ballet, with the second act woodland scene and its dark forest interior providing a phantastic foil to the decorative splendour of the first and last court scenes.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

One reply on “A captivating Sleeping Beauty from the Royal New Zealand Ballet”

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