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Svetlana Zaharova as Aurora in \"The Sleeping Beauty\" 

Review: The Sleeping Beauty | Bolshoi Ballet Live


Beauty to Behold

Russia's Bolshoi Ballet has begun broadcasting to movie screens worldwide. Here's a review of The Sleeping Beauty, which repeats Tuesday.



published Monday, November 21, 2011

How ballet ever survived the Bolsheviks is one of those great mysteries of the ages, with The Sleeping Beauty the biggest mystery of all. Steeped in the trappings of royalty from tip to toe, it glorifies everything that is grand, regal, rich and beautiful in a world when every aristocrat is handsome and benign and every peasant has good teeth. It almost makes you weep for doomed tsars.

At least, that was my reaction to the Bolshoi Ballet's stupendously elaborate Beauty performed live, and filmed for world distribution. From the twinkling chandeliers to gilded trim, the Bolshoi Theater is itself a marvel of opulence (recently restored at the cost of a princely 700 million), and perfectly suited to the drama on stage.

Except that the drama came more in the splendid décor and costumes than in the story itself. As for the dancing, it was gorgeous, from the delectable Lilac Fairy down to the delightful peasant children who join courtiers and peasants to celebrate Princess Aurora's 16th birthday.

Although The Sleeping Beauty has long been considered the province of the Kirov Ballet since its premiere at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg in 1890, the Moscow-based Bolshoi Ballet stakes its claim too, as have many other companies around the globe. In its dramatic realizations, Ben Stevenson's version for Texas Ballet Theater fares better, but for sheer beauty of dancing and perfection of mime, the Bolshoi is in a league of its own.

Different versions put the setting of the action in different times and places, but the Bolshoi goes for 17th and 18th century France, and does it ever show: long curls, plumed hats and knee-length stockings for the 17th century and white powdered wigs in the 18th. The one enduring element is Tchaikovsky's music. For that matter, few productions toy with much of the original choreography of Marius Petipa, but Yuri Grigorovich has made his mark on the Bolshoi's 1973 version.

To enjoy the full effect of The Sleeping Beauty, nothing could remotely surpass the experience of being in the theater itself, but surprisingly, the film version serves as a quite satisfactory substitute. Filmed live at the Bolshoi Theater, the camera zooms in on King Florestan XXIV's alarmed face when the wicked fairy Carabosse invades Aurora's christening party and then on Carabosse's menacing leer. Later, it captures the grin of mischief on Puss-in-Boots' face and the alarm on Little Red Riding Hood's with the wolf in hot pursuit. Few ballet companies can boast as much emphasis on mime and expression as the Bolshoi, and we are rewarded with well-aimed close-ups.

Where the camera action goes awry is in the big scenes that announce major changes. We can barely take in the arrival of the vengeful Carabosse in a carriage drawn by grotesque attendants because the camera mostly focuses on her (a man in travesty) and not the larger scene. In Texas Ballet Theater's production, by way of contrast, the fright and confusion of the entire court come through as thunder, lightning, smoke and a freewheeling carriage overtake the stage.

But it is not just the camera work that makes the beginning of Act II so disappointing. The Lilac Fairy leads Prince Désiré to the untended castle where Aurora and entourage have slept for 100 years, but there are no cobwebs or overgrown weeds to mark the passage of time. Also, the fateful kiss would have more impact if seen from a distance.

It is the overall unity of style that makes this filmed ballet so rewarding, and its clarity. Svetlana Zakharova may not be the perfect Aurora in conveying the shy delight of coming of age, for she is rather too tentative, but a lovely dancer nevertheless. As for David Hallberg as Prince Désiré—who has created a buzz in the ballet world as the first American to join the Bolshoi as a principal dancer—he was all smiles and eager anticipation, and a marvel in his ability to perform enormous leaps. (Side note: his coach was former Bolshoi star Alexander Vetrov, until lately the co-artistic director of the now defunct Metropolitan Classical Ballet.)

Could there be more charming fairies, with their hummingbird speed, darting feet and flickering fingers, with the delicate Lilac Fairy at their head? Even the large groups of courtiers and peasants keep your interest, performing as a cohesive whole and in wonderfully changing patterns that are cleverly caught from a view above.

The divertissements celebrating the wedding of the Princess and Prince are executed with flair, with the Blue Bird offering impressive brisés volés on a diagonal (where one leg is beaten against the other in mid-air). Next to Aurora's long-suspended arabesques when she lets go of the support of her suitors, and the tiny, swift and backward bourrées of a fairy, those brisés volés, arabesques and bourrées define what is difficult and astonishing about the ballet, and why, when done to perfection, it looks so effortless.

The Sleeping Beauty makes you almost believe in fairies. And the divine right of kings.

◊ Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.    

The Bolshoi Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty LIVE will be re-broadcast at 6:30 on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Also, the Bolshoi's production of Esmeralda will be broadcast at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 30. You can check the Fathom Events site to find a theater new you.

Below the video preview here is a list of North Texas theaters where it's showing:

Cinemark 17 with IMAX
11819 WEBB CHAPEL RD
DALLAS, TX 75234
972-247-8172    

Cinemark West Plano
3800 DALLAS PKWY
PLANO, TX 75093
972-473-2289

Vista Ridge Mall
2401 S STEMMONS FWY OFC 0004
LEWISVILLE, TX 75067
972-315-6152    

Cinemark 24 (The Legacy)
7201 N CENTRAL EXPY STE 100
PLANO, TX 75025
972-527-4385    

Tinseltown Movies 17
911 W STATE HIGHWAY 114
GRAPEVINE, TX 76051
817-481-3927

Cinemark 12 Rockwall
2125 SUMMER LEE DR
ROCKWALL, TX 75032
972-771-6653    

Cinemark - Frisco
5655 FRISCO SQUARE BLVD
FRISCO, TX 75034

Cinemark Allen 16
921 STATE HIGHWAY 121
ALLEN, TX 75013
214-383-9712    

Cinemark 14 Cedar Hill
280 UPTOWN BLVD
CEDAR HILL, TX 75104
972-291-5069    

Cinemark 12 Town Center
2041 HIGHWAY 287 N STE 901
MANSFIELD, TX 76063
817-473-6979    

Cinemark 14
2825 WIND RIVER LN
DENTON, TX 76210
940-535-2654  

Cinemark 12 Sherman
3310 TOWN CTR
SHERMAN, TX 75092
903-868-4337 Thanks For Reading





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Beauty to Behold
Russia's Bolshoi Ballet has begun broadcasting to movie screens worldwide. Here's a review of The Sleeping Beauty, which repeats Tuesday.
by Margaret Putnam

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