Dance / “The Sleeping Beauty”, Royal Czech Ballet. At Canberra Theatre, until September 18. Reviewed by SAMARA PURNELL.
WITH some of the most recognisable choreography and music in ballet, “Sleeping Beauty” presented by the Royal Czech Ballet is in town for just two performances.
Sunday’s performance had Critstina Terentiev dancing Princess Aurora. She was captivatingly lovely in the role and embodied the perfect combination of childhood joy, innocence and regal poise. Terentiev was sensitively partnered by Yevhen Svyetlitsa as Prince Desire, who emanated an easy, appealing presence. While he lightly executed his solos, he let Terentiev shine in what are surely some of the sweetest pas de deux in traditional ballet.
Ana Oleinic’s Lilac Fairy was beguiling and serene as she gently watched over Princess Aurora.
A medley of traits bestowed upon the baby princess saw dancers in a palette of pastels – from blue to buttery yellow. The lighting of pinky-purple and greens matched the array of pretty tutus.
The Royal Czech Ballet company (who presented “Swan Lake” in Canberra in 2022) once again presented a ballet with strikingly lavish costumes, bejewelled and bedazzled, and with a sprinkling of questionable wigs.
Sergej Iliin as the evil fairy Carabosse was stunningly adorned in black and gold. Upon closer inspection, it became apparent that the tradition of casting men in the caricatured female roles was upheld. Iliin’s dramatic stage presence commanded attention. The immaculately dressed male suitors and ensemble danced with beautiful poise. The female ensemble lacked some synchronicity and detailed execution on occasion.
An attractive transparent screen to represent the forest and the passing of 100 years as Princess Aurora fell into a deep sleep was utilised at the end of act one and the staging leading to interval beautifully set up act two.
Soft green tutus were all aflutter in the forest as Prince Desire dreamt of the Princess before awakening her with a kiss.
Some elements of the staging (perhaps due to the nature of a touring company and the restricted space of the theatre) are downplayed here.
The baby’s cradle in act one that would normally feature was underwhelmingly relegated to a corner upstage. In act two, the Prince finds Aurora propped up on the palace throne, again downplaying the drama of finding her sleeping and awakening her.
In the wedding scene that includes fairytale characters, White Cat Elizaveta Savina was lapping up the role, delighting the audience as she played with and swiped at Puss in Boots (Andrei Saharnean) in a perfectly playful duet. A slightly haphazard partnership between Blue Bird and Princess Florine was danced in stunning sapphire-blue costumes, before some lovely interplay between Red Riding Hood (Nicole Ferazzino, also one of the lead Fairies) and Grey Wolf (Dennis Donica).
“The Sleeping Beauty” choreography doesn’t have the “wow” factors of other ballets but it is charming and playful and the casting and execution here was just right for the characters. The familiar strains of Tchaikovsky had the audience swaying in recognition.
On an exceptionally warm spring day, and with the opening of Floriade, the joy, colours and comfort of this company’s rendition of “Sleeping Beauty” made the perfect end to the weekend and for those wondering if there is still an audience for the classics, a place and space for tradition, the answer is a resounding yes.
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