(photo of Paloma Herrera by Rosalie O’Connor, from ABT website)
Fuller review coming soon so I won’t say a whole lot here, but I saw ABT’s new version of Sleeping Beauty tonight and loved it — actually, they premiered it last year but made a few changes and updates for this season. I think they shaved a bit off the top (which is good; it was top heavy, as I think all classical story ballets tend to be); so now we get to the action sooner — it’s only a few minutes to the point when the fairies are doing their variations and then the Lilac Fairy is being presented with the infant Princess Aurora. And they shortened the Prince’s hunting scene at the beginning of Act II, taking out some of the more awkward movements (like when the huntsmen carry the Prince all around the forest in that group lift).
I feel like they also spiced things up in various parts, the most notable to me when evil fairy Carabosse catches the Prince in her web and he struggles to break free. The lights suddenly shine on Lilac Fairy (who now is right beside the prince instead of somewhere up above him as I think she was before), she waves her wand, Carabosse starts to melt like the Wicked Witch of the West, and the Prince is free from the web only to be attacked by Carabosse’s minions (whom I enjoy calling the big bug-men). But then the fairies begin jete-ing across the stage working their magic and destroying the bugs, and the bugs begin to fall to the ground and “melt” as well. I don’t know, maybe it was the same before, but it seemed better, more dramatic, and faster-moving this way. And putting Lilac beside Carabosse and her web made it more clear she was saving the Prince and destroying Carabosse and her cohorts.
(All headshots from ABT website)
Anyway, tonight’s Prince and Princess were danced by my favorite couple, Marcelo and Julie 😀 Marcelo as always was perfect, brought you into his character’s world, into the world of the ballet through his immense acting skills, his groundedness (if that’s a word?…), and his empathetic humanity. He always finds the vulnerable points in his characters and highlights them, which in the lighter ballets like Don Quixote and Rabbit and Rogue means bringing out the humor of those characters, making them sweetly, comically lovable, and in the more serious ballets like Othello means driving home the ballet’s pathos and tragedy. In a ballet like this that is a bit of both, it just means making the Prince real, contemporary, someone whose needs and desires you can relate to and sympathize with.
Julie seemed a bit off through about the first half though. Her balances during the Rose Adagio were shaky (she didn’t even let go of one suitor’s hand and the rest she only let go of for a split second), and I think it really messed her up mentally. I kind of hate the Rose Adagio for that reason; if a ballerina has trouble, she gets flustered and is upset for the rest of the ballet. Julie didn’t come to herself until the wedding celebration when she danced with Marcelo, who it seemed calmed her down and made her feel safe again, and eventually let her shine (like Marcelo always does!). But the wedding celebration pas de deux were beautiful, the fish dives breathtaking — everything ended well.
Michele Wiles was tonight’s Lilac Fairy and while she hasn’t been a favorite of mine, I really loved her in this role. She wasn’t a syrupy sweet Glinda the Good Witch-style L.F.; she was more of a matronly, all-powerful one who made clear with one swift strike of the wand that she was in control and she meant business, Carabosse was going down. It worked well. I think it was part of what sped the ballet along. And she was really radiant.
And the big news tonight, which I saved for last, was that Blaine Hoven (my favorite not-yet-famous dancer at ABT) had his debut as Bluebird. He did very well! He was really lovely. The last person I saw dance the part was the sky-high jumping Herman Cornejo. Blaine’s leaps were nowhere near as high — they couldn’t be; he is a much larger person than Herman (except his tour jetes — those were grand; I think they’re Blaine’s strongest jump). But that didn’t matter because he was so brilliantly expressive. His arms were so fluid, they really looked like a bird’s wings, like he was about to fly away. And the way he did his forward and backward series of assemble jumps with a few beats thrown in, he looked kind of like a hummingbird, like he was beating his wings while floating in mid-air. It was so much more beautiful than I’ve ever seen it done before. The dancer usually just focuses on the bravura elements — mainly getting that height on the jumps in order to wow the crowd — but birds don’t jump, they fly. Blaine’s bluebird flew.