'Sleeping Beauty' gets a bit of a makeover
Robert Gardner's love of story, character and acting -- as well as entrechats and jumps -- come through in the Minnesota Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty." In his first full-length story ballet, Gardner dramatically altered and re-choreographed the Mari...
Robert Gardner's love of story, character and acting -- as well as entrechats and jumps -- come through in the Minnesota Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty."
In his first full-length story ballet, Gardner dramatically altered and re-choreographed the Marius Petipa/Peter Tchaikovsky classic that debuted at the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg in 1890. Gardner's version has a drawbridge, a medieval castle and a forest of thorns -- and less top-heavy dazzlement that balletomanes love but people who come to see a show tend to find tedious.
Gardner pared the ballet to two acts, set in and around a medieval castle, with motifs chosen from tapestries he saw at museums in Europe and New York. The Minnesota Ballet spent three years and $50,000 to create his "Sleeping Beauty," which closed its 40th anniversary season in 2006.
Petipa, the 19th-century eminence of classical ballet, is known for his ballerina-centric choreography in not only "Sleeping Beauty" but also "The Nutcracker," "Giselle" and "Swan Lake." His vision of the female dancer as the transfigured victim and fragile victor was something George Balanchine imbibed as well.
"I was trained at American Ballet, where, of course, Balanchine's influence is strong," Gardner said, "but I think that the danseur noble [the male dancer] and the ballerina are on equal footing."
Gardner's choreography uses male dancers in more varied ways than is typical in classical ballet, and he has developed a clearer narrative arc for his "Sleeping Beauty," using the Grimm Brothers' version set in medieval German life rather than Petipa's choice, the Perrault fairy tale written for the French royal court.
The choreography of this "Sleeping Beauty" is Gardner's; he alludes to Petipa by using some of his most famous passages, but has created a much clearer and shorter story. For example, Gardner has cut the fairies to two: Carabosse, the evil one, and the good Lilac Fairy, who repairs the damage her sister does.
The story of heroine Rose is given primacy. Even though the second act, the Masked Ball, is not plot-heavy, still the narrative arc of good and evil, the magic of love, and the importance of hope and belief manage to make themselves seen through the briary thickets of balletic tradition.