On Saturday, April 7, I attended a performance of “The Sleeping Beauty” by the Russian National Ballet at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. I ordered a seat in the first row of the balcony and had to watch through the metal bars of the gate, all while trying not to look down, and taking notes on the performance at the same time. However, despite all of this distraction, I was able to really get swept away by the performance and the dancers. Here is my review of the performance.
I’m not going to go through each act and the story because I think we all know how Sleeping Beauty goes. I’ve never seen the Disney movie, cue large gasp from people reading, but I can tell you that this version wasn’t the Disney movie with utmost confidence. However, Disney fans do not fret, because this performance was pretty amazing.
Firstly, the costumes worn by the dancers were amazing. They looked like they were straight out of, whatever year this story was originally written. Even from my seat, I could see the details in the costumes. Good job costume designer!
But I’m burying the lead here: the dancing was incredible! The Russian National Ballet casts some stellar technicians and performers for this piece. Since the brochure didn’t have a cast list, and the announcer didn’t specify how to spell any of the lead performers’ names, I’m just going to talk about them in the context of their roles.
Some of my favorite performers in the piece were the ones who had smaller roles. I could tell they really made the most of their role and really had fun with the piece. During the wedding scene between Princess Aurora and Prince Charming, there were three guest duets: two bluebirds, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Puss N Boots and a mouse. The former was very technical and featured impressive jumps, while the latter two were very comedic. Other comedic roles were the Evil Fairy and her henchman. The Evil Fairy seemed to have two different people playing her; her upper body was hunched over and flailing her arms, while her lower body showed off some impressive calypsos. She wasn’t given that much technique but managed to deliver an impressive performance. The henchmen were wearing animal masks, and one appeared to be wearing socks on his arms. The weirdest scene was when the Evil Fairy petted them on the head.
The dancer playing the royal page was a scene-stealer as well. (I couldn’t tell if they were male or female.) One of the funniest scenes came when the page was trying to hide knitting needles from the town and was fiddling with them on stage. Even when the page was sitting on the sidelines watching other sections of the dance, they were in character and managed to catch my eye. The last performer I wanted to highlight is the dancer who played the gold fairy and the dancer who played the pink fairy; at least I think they were fairies, in Act 1. I could see the gold fairy’s face and excitement from my seat and felt happy watching her dance. Although, the pink fairy’s arabesque was ridiculous.
Now onto the main performers. Who better to start with than Princess Aurora herself? She was absolutely amazing. Her turns were beautiful and her performance was light, airy, and bubbly, straight out of a Barbie movie. She also really sold the scene where she pricks her finger and falls asleep. Her chemistry with Prince Charming during their pas de deuxes, especially during the wedding scene, was amazing.
Speaking of the Prince, we don’t meet him until Act 2. His jumps were pretty spectacular and looked like he could clear a small child. I also loved that the choreographers gave him some traditionally feminine movements to do. An example is when he dances with the Lilac Fairy and has the vision of Princess Aurora. He has great turns and extensions, and I am glad that was highlighted. Lastly, the MVP goes to the Lilac Fairy. She seemed to have the most dancing to do, and we never saw her break a sweat. I loved her sections in Act 1 with the other fairies and her duet with Prince Charming. Her turns were flawless and her performance was phenomenal.
The few criticisms I have of the show were the scene where Princess Aurora dances with four men just seemed like she was being passed off from one man to the next, and during the fairies section in Act 1, it seemed like the spacing was a bit off. (However, that might have just been the angle I was seeing them from, I might be wrong on the latter.)
So if you ever see that the Russian National Ballet is in town, I recommend getting tickets. Also, you should see any ballet performance, because ballet is awesome.