Minnesota Ballet delivers polished 'Sleeping Beauty'
The Minnesota Ballet did a honed and polished version of its "Sleeping Beauty" on Saturday. This is the same ballet, on the same set, as last year's premier, but the choreography has been fine-tuned and the dancers are more deeply imbued with the...
The Minnesota Ballet did a honed and polished version of its "Sleeping Beauty" on Saturday. This is the same ballet, on the same set, as last year's premier, but the choreography has been fine-tuned and the dancers are more deeply imbued with the roles they are dancing, despite the fact that many roles are danced on alternate days by two dancers.
There's more in "Sleeping Beauty" than this simple story, but let's start there.
A young girl, Rose, hesitates at the door of maturity; she is reluctant to leave her childhood freedom to enter the world of sexual and social maturity, whose warmth and complexity are inviting but whose dizzying patterns and pairings are constricting. Her fear, personified, paralyzes her.
Finally, a prince appears who is up to the job, a Prince Charmant who can lift and carry princesses with ease, and she opens to the world and blooms like her name.
Suzanne Kritzberg, who dances Rose, has a distinctive style: her defined and compact musculature is well adapted to her blazing precision and her movement's fuller-than-expected curves, which give that precision a particular amplitude and nervy life. In this role she adapts her style to the acting demands of Rose beautifully.
In her first scenes, Kritzberg's gestures are comparatively angular and simple. As she moves into her first solo -- she is dancing on her sixteenth birthday amid courtiers and suitors -- her open and linear movements carry her flying out of the constricting squares and circles of the courtiers' dance, off into her own realm. This becomes frightening soon, as she encounters Carabosse, the evil fairy who has forecast her death should she touch (the suggestive) spindle. Rose pricks her finger; she falls into a deep sleep.
The second act features the wonderful set device (designed by Anne Gumpper) of thorn-covered translucent scrims, a forest that dissolves before the advancing prince (Igor Burlak), who is met by each form of femaleness in turn: the warm and living Lilac Fairy, welcoming him; the expressionless, still-passive princess; and the malign Carabosse, a bent version of the goddess of death, personifying fear and refusal.
After the prince awakens the princess with a kiss, she leaves her coy coltishness, her angular and simplified movement. Her full and concentrated gestures and elegant line are well matched in Burlak, who is a prince who knows his business. His big frame and strength make his audacious lifts and carries both dramatic and effortless; he is a great foil for Kritzberg's exquisite definition.
Many of the supplementary characters in this well-worn story are danced to great effect. Wicked Carabosse's Henchmen (Igor Burlak and Seth Colvin on Saturday) and Carabosse herself (Amanda Abrahamson) make rapid and elegant mayhem out of the Courtiers' careful social dance. The Lilac Fairy (Julie Blake) was less than fully athletic (she is pregnant) but was unfailingly radiant and more than graceful.
The Masked Ball, danced by four pairs of allegorical figures (Lady and Unicorn, Lion and Lamb, Dragon and Knight, and Peacock and Jay), attempts to present the various styles of pairing available to the courtly couple, from predatory to pure to playful. It was often successful, and the male dancing in this section is particularly fine. The Jay (Daniel Blake) brought down the house with his virtuosity, speed and charm, and the Unicorn (Kevin Belanger) was impressively athletic and endearingly blissful.
Both pas de deux and solo dances by Burlak and Kritzberg during the Masked Ball sequences were virtuoso turns. One forgets every flimsy detail of balletic storytelling when watching this kind of focus, grace and terrific athleticism. Burlak's leaps and Kritzberg's speed and line were always on.
The recorded music is unfortunate -- understandable, for reasons of cost and the need to tour the show. But even the loudspeakers didn't damage the final Apotheosis too much. The stately moodiness of the stacked chords provided a fine atmosphere for Rose and Charmant's final tableau under showers of red petals. It was Ballet with a capital B.