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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
American Ballet Theater
Performance Reviews
Lincoln Center
American Ballet Theatre
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New York, NY

American Ballet Theatre: The Sleeping Beauty, a World Premiere (June 1 and 7, 2007)

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 7, 2007
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

Featured Dance Company:

American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre (office)
890 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

American Ballet Theatre

The Sleeping Beauty
World Premiere
Ballet in Three Acts
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Wes Chapman, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Georgina Parkinson, Clinton Luckett
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

(Read More ABT Reviews).

About the Author:
The Sleeping Beauty (World Premiere): Choreography after Marius Petipa, Additional choreography and staging by Kevin McKenzie, Gelsey Kirkland, and Michael Chernov, Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, Scenery by Tony Walton, Costumes by Willa Kim, Lighting by Richard Pilbrow and Dawn Chiang, Associate Set Designer: Kelly Hanson, Assistant Costume Designer: Richard Schurkamp.

Cast on June 1, 2007:

Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins
Veronica Part as Princess Aurora, Marcelo Gomes as Prince Désiré, Michelle Wiles as The Lilac Fairy, Martine Van Hamel as The Fairy Carabosse, Victor Barbee as King Florestan, Susan Jaffe as His Queen, Wes Chapman as Catalabutte, The King's Chief Minister, Maria Riccetto as The Fairy of Sincerity, Yuriko Kajiya as The Fairy of Fervor, Sarah Lane as The Fairy of Charity, Zhong-Jing Fang as The Fairy of Joy, Stella Abrera as The Fairy of Valor, Jared Matthews, Carlos Lopez, Alexandre Hammoudi, Sascha Radetsky, Craig Salstein, Gennadi Saveliev as The Fairy Knights, Vitali Krauchenka as The Russian Prince, Alexandre Hammoudi as The Spanish Prince, Jared Matthews as The Indian Prince, Cory Stearns as The Celtic Prince, Melissa Thomas as The Countess, Vitali Krauchenka as Gallison, The Prince's Aide, Misty Copeland and Kenneth Easter as Puss-in-Boots and The Cat, Jacquelyn Reyes and Arron Scott as Red Riding Hood and The Wolf, Karen Uphoff and Alexandre Hammoudi as Cinderella and Prince Charming, Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo as The Bluebird and Princess Florine, The Company as Herald, Lilac Fairy Attendants, Carabosse's Minions, The Courtiers, Princess Aurora's Friends, Village Gossips, The Villagers, The Prince's Friends, The Hunt Couples, and Skylar Brandt and David Alvarez as The Village Children.

Cast on June 7, 2007:

Conductor: David LaMarche
Paloma Herrera as Princess Aurora, Angel Corella as Prince Désiré, Stella Abrera as The Lilac Fairy, Carmen Corella as The Fairy Carabosse, Roman Zhurbin as King Florestan, Maria Bystrova as His Queen, Wes Chapman as Catalabutte, The King's Chief Minister, Melanie Hamrick as The Fairy of Sincerity, Kristi Boone as The Fairy of Fervor, Melissa Thomas as The Fairy of Charity, Renata Pavam as The Fairy of Joy, Misty Copeland as The Fairy of Valor, Grant DeLong, Kenneth Easter, Alexandre Hammoudi, Matthew Golding, Patrick Ogle, Arron Scott as The Fairy Knights, Blaine Hoven as The Russian Prince, Isaac Stappas as The Spanish Prince, Jared Matthews as The Indian Prince, Patrick Ogle as The Celtic Prince, Jennifer Alexander as The Countess, Julio Bragado-Young as Gallison, The Prince's Aide, Hee Seo and Alejandro Piris-Niño as Puss-in-Boots and The Cat, Kelley Boyd and Luis Ribagorda as Red Riding Hood and The Wolf, Karen Uphoff and Cory Stearns as Cinderella and Prince Charming, Maria Riccetto and Sascha Radetsky as The Bluebird and Princess Florine, The Company as Herald, Lilac Fairy Attendants, Carabosse's Minions, The Courtiers, Princess Aurora's Friends, Village Gossips, The Villagers, The Prince's Friends, The Hunt Couples, and Skylar Brandt and David Alvarez as The Village Children.

World Premieres are quite exciting, and any premiere at American Ballet Theatre is doubly exciting. We had seen a glimpse of the new The Sleeping Beauty at the May 14 Opening Night Gala. On that night, Veronica Part found the requisite performance of the Rose Adagio somewhat challenging. On June 1, she overcame that challenge. Ms. Part, as Aurora (We do know this renowned story, not synopsized here), was skillful, balanced, poised, and glowing. Her Prince Désiré, the rapturous Marcelo Gomes, was well up to the challenge of his solos and difficult partnering as well. However, on June 7, Paloma Herrera and Angel Corella performed the roles with show-stopping virtuosity and vivacious ease. The June 7 leads brought out the dynamism, illustrated in the visual impact of costuming, sets, and lighting, while some of the secondary roles on June 1 sparkled more sharply.

But first, this world premiere production, created in collaboration by Artistic Director, Kevin McKenzie, with retired ballerina, Gelsey Kirkland, and Michael Chernov. There have been many creations of Sleeping Beauties: ballets, the Disney animated film, children's plays, books, and more. However, there has never been a Sleeping Beauty quite like this production. A gothic ballet with dark gestures and animated costumes and sets. And, that is not a bad thing. We don't need ballet cloning.

The sets by Tony Walton have that Fantasia look, storybook castles, near and far, rainbows that follow thunder, giant gates wound with flowers, spider-webs that hold the Prince, a plush, bright ballroom, an autumn forest that frames the hunt, with oranges/reds/browns, a human-sized birdcage, a swinging Carabosse before a swinging Lilac Fairy, and much more. Willa Kim's costumes are as well inspired by animation coloring, and the eye is riveted to contrasting aqua/mustard Villagers, a mauve-black, torn-ribboned Carabosse, red/black flying creatures that support Carabosse, exotic, turbaned Prince costumes at Aurora's 16th birthday, brightly colored tutus for the various fairies, and doll-like outfits for Cinderella and Prince Charming. Lighting and Sound Effects include fireballs, floating fog, puffs of disappearance-enabling smoke, bright gardens juxtaposed to dark, twig and thorn forests, and you can imagine the rest. The purpose of describing sets, costumes, and lighting/sound first is to present the striking visual impact that was created by the trio of choreography/staging artists.

Against this visual impact, always captivating and charming, was the re-invented choreography and some dark, gothic gestures. First the gestures: King Florestan threatens to take trembling villagers and Catalabutte to the gallows, upon seeing the dreaded spindle at Princess Aurora's 16th birthday, as she is introduced to the Princes; Swords are used to cage these innocent characters; Prince Désiré is caught in a yellow/black spider-web, on his way to the fateful kiss; The Fairy Carabosse is a virtual man-eater, a deer with an arrow shot through its torso is presented to the Prince; The Wolf is literally predatory, then pleasant, toward Red Riding Hood at The Wedding; and Princess Florine arrives caged. The re-invented choreography would have to be compared to that of Peter Martins, Petipa, et al, to fine-tune each cut, addition, enhancement, etc., but ABT's new production is obviously fresh and unique. Among the changes are synthesized and re-positioned plot lines, with one intermission, not two.

The Christening (party) Scene and the 16th birthday and Spell Scene are combined for Act I, prior to intermission. Act II (Hunt, Dream, Vision, Journey, and Awakening) are joined prior to just a pause, before the final Act III Wedding Celebration. Several dances in the wedding scene seemed brief, with a Cinderella cameo added, and the King and Queen were missing from the wedding and final curtain, as were other characters as well. Puss-in-Boots, Cat, Wolf, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Prince Charming all inter-related onstage as guests at a party, rather than totally as performers, in a very campy attitude. Princess Florine, not a bird, was caged and wheeled to the celebration, and Bluebird seemed to be less showcased here. All male Fairy Knights with flying wings are added for contrast to the numerous female Fairies and Attendants. The strolling Villagers fall asleep mostly offstage, and King and Queen walk offstage with The Lilac Fairy, as if to enter an "otherworld", while their daughter sleeps for 100 (or is it several hundred) years. The sets and costumes prior to and after her sleep seem to indicate major cultural change.

In the two casts, there were solos and duos that out-shown or surpassed the other, sometimes with nuance, and sometimes with pure bravura skill. Chemistry helps too, and the Paloma Herrera-Angel Corella duo on June 7 effortlessly surpassed the skill and presence of the Veronica Part-Marcelo Gomes duo on June 1. Both Ms. Herrera and Mr. Corella glanced at their audience frequently, as if to say, "Now watch this!" They were enticing, seductive, improvisational, aerobic, and totally in control of their fans' psyches. Mr. Corella performed his usual mid-air spins, twirls, and aerodynamic leaps. Ms. Herrera's Rose Adagio was inspirational and flawless. The audience responded in kind. To be fair, Mr. Gomes gave an extraordinary performance, one that could have shown more with equally extraordinary partnering. As The Lilac Fairy, Michelle Wiles, on June 1, exuded ebullience and warmth, while on June 7, Stella Abrera was graceful and elegant, but emotionally restrained. Ms. Abrera has fascinating lines and intricacies of expression, but Ms. Wiles assumes the role with strength of mind and charisma. For The Fairy Carabosse, Carmen Corella, dancing onstage with her brother, was more focused in the "man-eating", vengeful, and crooked role, with the jumping fly-creatures swirling about. Martine Van Hamel, retired but back in some theatrical roles, was too cute and campy, too self-absorbed.

As Bluebird and Florine, the Herman Cornejo-Xiomara Reyes duo far surpassed the virtuosity and verve of the Sascha Radetsky-Maria Riccetto duo, who were more restrained and stage firm. Mr. Cornejo is a wonder to watch, always contagiously captivating, always superhuman in drive. Ms. Reyes fed off his energy, and he fed off hers. They should be partnered in the major roles while this rare energy and electricity last. As King Florestan and His Queen, Roman Zhurbin and Maria Bystrova were more theatrical and connected than were, amazingly, Victor Barbee and Susan Jaffe, both long retired but active in teaching and ballet administration. Mr. Barbee and Ms. Jaffe seemed to be thinking "cameo", while Mr. Zhurbin and Ms. Bystrova were thinking "Aurora's parents". When Aurora (Ms. Herrera) fell lifeless, after the spindle did its deed, Ms. Bystrova reacted as the Princess' mother would. Likewise, Mr. Zhurbin, an artist to watch, who assumes more and more theatrically charged roles lately with aplomb, was believable in his fear of spindles.

Wes Chapman was superb both nights as the bumbling Catalabutte, and of the secondary Fairies Sarah Lane on June 1 (Fairy of Charity) and Misty Copeland on June 7 (Fairy of Valor) performed with notable skill and timing. In fact, Misty Copeland dances this year with new dynamism and determination, another artist to watch. On the other hand, as The Fairy of Joy, Renata Pavam infused cartoonish mannerisms, unlike ballet and inelegant, while Zhong-Jing Fang danced this role with fluttering charm. As The Russian, Spanish, Indian, and Celtic Princes, both casts were equally attentive in the very difficult Rose Adagio, but I would have to give the edge to the June 7 cast, as Ms. Herrera was so at ease. Misty Copeland on June 1was a coy Puss-in-Boots to Kenneth Easter's Cat, while Kelley Boyd and Luis Ribagorda on June 7 were most entertaining as Red Riding Hood and The Wolf.

The Corps and dancers in additional minor roles were always in character, whether as Village Gossips or Carabosse's Minions, Fairy Attendants or Courtiers. One rising artist to watch is Skylar Brandt, who danced a solo and pas de deux both nights as one of the Village Children. This magazine has been watching her for several years, and she grows in poise and confidence each season. Skylar is a student at the JKO School of Ballet at ABT. As I still play Tchaikovsky's music in my head, both Ormsby Wilkins and David LaMarche brought the ABT Orchestra to full potential in the new configuration of The Sleeping Beauty score.

You can explore the ABT Season Schedule and buy tickets at www.abt.org.
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