royal ballet in cinema ~ sleeping beauty!

i am happy to report that unlike last time i went to see the ballet in cinema, this time –thanks to ignoring bossy GPS lady and following printed mapquest directions instead-   i found the garden state plaza theater with no problem whatsoever. (perhaps i should note that every single time i shop at IKEA and attempt to exit onto route 17, somehow i end up in the garden state plaza parking lot by accident. maybe next time i should just go to IKEA, try leave & therefore end up at the plaza!)

so, anyway, this time i was there to see the royal ballet’s sleeping beauty and oh my! it was well worth the drive – what a brilliant production! so…we’ll naturally start with the prologue where the fairies dance their gifts to the infant princess (unfortunately played by a very creepy looking doll, which is not really a problem if you are part of the live audience but for those of us getting the occasional movie theater close-up it was hard not to wonder how that odd looking child with her mouth hanging open grew up to be the title character)! all the fairies were quite beautiful, but the most remarkable were yuhui choe – radiant as ever dancing the fairy of the crystal fountain, and the fairy of the songbird, delightfully interpreted by francesca hayward. unfortunately, previously viewing (about 50 billion times) videos of marianela nunez enchantingly, perfectly, exquisitely dancing the lilac fairy has sort of ruined me for any future lilacs. laura mccolluch did a nice job as the lilac fairy, but i feel she often holds quite a bit of tension in her neck. however, she did win me over in the later acts with her gentle guiding of the prince and with the way she took down the evil carabosse. and speaking of carabosse….. wow! kristen mcnally was delightfully wicked and haughty – what a fantastic baddie she was! brava!! 

on to act 1 and somehow creepy baby doll has grown into a stunningly gorgeous and elegant sixteen year old princess aurora (sarah lamb) who was celebrating her birthday. sarah was a joy to watch throughout, full of youth and bouyancy, and her rose adagio could not have been better. her develope’s a la seconde were tasteful and beautifully placed, somehow accentuating her gorgeously arched feet, her arabesque penche’s were each a carbon copy of the one preceding -rolling slowly through her foot each time without a wobble, her attitude balances generally secure and not overdone. (personally, i’m not usually a huge fan of super long balances in the rose adagio as often the ballerina becomes a bit wobbly or takes on a blank stare and falls out of character to maintain her balance. tho i will admit they are impressive from a technical standpoint). sarah remained engaged with her suitors throughout the adagio, enjoying her courtships and showing such delight each time she was presented with a flower. in short, she was fantastic. but alas, aurora’s festivities must soon come to and end as the conniving carabosse shows up with a spindle and well….. you know the deal.

as aurora has pricked her finger and is having a bit of a snooze, we were finally introduced to our charming prince florimund who was gallivanting about the forest, having some drinks and playing silly blindfold games with his friends and family. our prince for the evening was danced by the incredible steven mcrae, who i must confess ranks fairly high on my list of ballet dancers i would happily marry if i was still young and cute and single and ….you know, they weren’t totally out of my league. but anyway….. his royal cuteness wasn’t exactly in a partying mood and launched into a gorgeous adagio solo full of longing and beautiful arabesques. steven possesses such beautiful line and control and danced with a melancholy yearning. and shortly after the lilac fairy showed him an image of his delicate bride to be, we were all treated to a divine vision scene indeed.

lamb and mcrae by johan persson


so the lovely aurora got her kiss, carabosse was destroyed and our princess awakened looking as fresh and spirited as she did 100 years ago. of course the happy couple decided to wed immediately because, hey – it’s a fairy tale and we needed an excuse for  a wedding party! all the fairytale guests arrived and danced splendidly but i must note once again how much i enjoyed yuhui choe who was cast as bluebird’s princess florine in the 3rd act. yuhui dances with such a natural joy and luminescence and i never tire of her warmth and sparkle. 

the happy couple’s final grande pas de deux was brilliant, sarah was graceful and refined and steven a splendid partner. (and the fish dives- fantastic!!) their variations were so beautiful and exciting that even in a movie theatre the audience couldn’t resist breaking into applause. all in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable performance and i’m super happy i went : )

and just a few more quick shout outs–

to the corps de ballet who danced wonderfully throughout and especially the lavender girls when they linked into a line and did those quick degages travelling forward en pointe. they could not have been more in sync if they had been programmed by a computer – that was a moment of sheer perfection.

to the orchestra who played tchaikovsky’s wondrous score so passionately. (coincidentally i heard the rose adagio music on my car radio earlier in the day while driving to lowes to pick up a new vacuum cleaner belt. i’m sure that’s relevant somehow).

and to fathom events and the royal ballet and whoever else it takes to put these fabulous ballets in the movie theaters! thank you!!

next up in the royal ballet’s cinema season is christopher wheeldon’s “a winter’s tale”.

check it out!


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5 Responses to royal ballet in cinema ~ sleeping beauty!

  1. RO says:

    Ohhh it sounds amazing!! 😀

  2. Karen Webb says:

    Warning!!! This started out as a simple response from a fellow balletomane (balletomaniac?) and grew into a loooooong response that references your review (and mainly is a review). I hope I don’t break the bank on your server, but after all the Tweets from new people (or veteran people) that said the very general “It was great,” I was thrilled to find someone who could write intelligently about the ballet, so I may have gone a little overboard. Hope you can stick with it!

    *Finally* comments from someone who actually knows the ballet. The tweets were fun, but golly, what can you fit into so few characters that conveys anything that would mean something to the dancers and artistic staff? Hope I’m not importuning if I respond in kind. I’m trying to see if there’s a way to write something that would go to the publicist for ROH or staff at the RB that would be short but in a enough detail that they *might* consider conveying the positive stuff (and what was there negative to say?) to the dancers.

    I’ve written extensively about dance and I’ve seen like 10 zillion Sleeping Beautys (is that a correct plural? “Beauties” didn’t look quite right) including the excellent blow by blow recreation of the original production with Obraztsova (which if you haven’t seen, get thee gone to YT and try to find the one that’s broken into 17 parts. Comments are excellent; there’s also a reconstruction of Bayadere over there.

    Yes, fairies were excellent, and I now have my entire household in love with Yuhui Choe. There’s a post at YT with a very similar set of fairies that, like this group, is so beautifully detailed and energized that they hold your attention. I think the only sense of dilution of these qualities might be due to everyone onscreen being giant-sized. My usual attitude with the fairies is “ho-hum, wake me when Carabosse enters” even with big companies like ABT. Like you, I find that seeing Marianela, although it was just on the DVD, has ruined me for other Lilac Fairies. I wondered if what we got was just normal casting rather than the State Occasion Casting often used for DVDs and broadcasts like Live from Lincoln Center. It just seems strange to see Yuhui as a first soloist leading off the fairies and just a regular soloist as Lilac for a broadcast, although I’m typically not one to get hung up on titles.

    Which leads me to Carabosse and a BEST CARABOSSE EVER! I’d seen Monica Mason both live and on tape and have mostly preferred that approach, the one exception being ABT’s Marcos Paredes, who had masterfully detailed make-up (including insanely long fingernails made from plastic tubing) and really crafted his character meticulously. He even took his bows in character. It’s so unusual to see Carabosse performed by a young, beautiful woman, and I think the Royals were using a guy in drag for a while (other companies sometimes use women done up like hags). She was just delightfully evil in an enjoyably self-satisfied way. And I suppose it’s the legacy of Nutcracker that her evil entourage were all mice. And yay! I’ve read about but haven’t seen the trap used before.

    And Ms Lamb. Mouth still hanging open because of those penchees. What control! I’ve seen Auroras hold onto the shoulder of each suitor and go all the way over into penchee (although rarely this deep) or seen them not hold on and get maybe as far as allongee without the plie but never this sort of full penchee with no support. I think I could have sat and watched her roll through her foot for three hours and found the money well spent. I have to admit, the way Nunez has ruined me for other Lilacs, Cynthia Gregory has ruined me for Rose Adagios (find on YT if you haven’t seen it; quality of the video is poor, but you won’t care) I think it was less about the magnificent balances than the way she just took her time extending from attitude into arabesque. I imagine the penchee version of this that a lot of Russian companies do is harder, and it seems from the reconstruction that that was what Petipa set, but I like this way better. I saw maybe 3 choreographic tweaks (no tour in second, no supported pirouette ending in attitude followed by pirouette/arabesque/close to retiree with 1/4 turn/extend 4th). Overall, a very lovely Rose.

    One question on the variation: did you feel her last pirouette (double, landing in sort of a tombe with a sort-of ecarte arm) was a good cover or save rather than a planned finish? She’d been doing triple pirouettes (for which Brava!), so I was wondering if she was going to go for a quadruple at the end of that sequence (or at least another triple) and hit a rough spot on the stage or something. Are you fluent enough with ballet terminology that you know what to call the step where she travels downstage for the final pirouette in that section? It’s always looked like a pas de cheval to me, just—it travels. I guess I can check Gale Grant.

    Also—yes, stunningly beautiful feet. I was looking at all the other women and noticing that, even with an extension to second or similar, you could see consistently very beautiful feet, but Lamb’s were just a shade more beautiful. Her pointe work on both this variation and the wedding pas variation was not only flawless but so beautiful my mouth was watering. I *know* my feet were cramping!

    I love male adagio and think that any Swan Lake production that leaves out the “moody prince” thing in the first act is shortchanging both the danseur and the audience. This is the first one I’ve seen in SB, and I loved it. I’d known McRae as a brilliant jumper but holy cow! his line and liquid control are stunning! The reconstruction notes said that Petipa originally asked Tchaikovsky to do piles of music for this scene—dances for countesses, duchesses, and several more bunches of noblewomen of different ranks. This is one time I was happy to see a scene trimmed (this wasn’t far off what the reconstruction ended up with). A choreographic tweak I really liked was the new steps for Aurora’s entrance. As recently as the DVD with Cojacaru as Aurora, they were still using the humongous chasse coupe jete sequence (which does fit the entrance music, and what a jump the itty-bitty Cojacaru had!). I think Wheeldon or whoever came up with this may have invented the step. It was pique arabesque, but then the working leg came down to roughly coupe and the body did a single turn before launching into the next pique arabesque. I liked it.

    I’m a proponent of using the gorgeous music of the pas d’action as a normal pas de deux. I have a really old tape of the Kirov where Aurora’s entrance becomes the dryad entrance and the beginning of the pas d’action becomes Aurora’s, then the prince gets a solo after everyone clears out), but Lamb/McRae and Cojacaru are slowly winning me over because of the sheer magnitude of the emotions they project and the way they dance out their yearning. And this filming for the first time made sense of the reason Carabosse is even in the “awakening” sequence. If the Carabosse’s destruction bit is on the DVD (otherwise, I think this is the same production), the film editing clipped out everything above the headboard. Dramatically, this was a great move.

    Not using the “best ever” thing lightly, but of the character variations BEST EVER BLUEBIRDS and BEST EVER RED RIDING HOOD AND THE WOLF. I think when I saw that the fellow dancing the Bluebird was a regular soloist (like the Lilac Fairy), I braced for a let-down, but OMG great elevation, textbook brises voles with dagger straight legs and feet, textbook poisson(s) with a beautifully supple back and ditto on the legs and feet, he did the repeat of the first section (so you know he has stamina). I think the only great danseur I never saw do Bluebird was Fernando Bujones, and I can’t imagine him being any better. And Yuhui as Florine. Really, the easiest way to review her is “It was Yuhui” because in my eyes, she can do no wrong. I’m waiting for the day she and (Valentino Zucchetti? I have partial casting, sent courtesy of ROH, and my computer is being wonky and won’t let me access it) are promoted.

    Red Riding Hood and the Wolf—same steps as everyone else, but distinguished by the wonderful acting, energy, and sense of intent. I do miss the Hop o’ My Thumb variation, which I’ve seen on a very old video with Wayne Sleep, but I wonder if it was made just for him because he was so slight of frame and got dropped when he retired from the stage (he was a great Puck). Florestan and his Sisters (same era) also had an extra woman’s variation—guessing this might have been Ashton’s choreography—that I loved and wish they’d retained. If we were Skyping, I could hum it for you! But started out with something like temps de cuisse, echappe 4th (arms 5th en haut), close, repeat, and the sequence oriented the body so it faced first corner 1, then corner 2. It’s nothing you’d recognize from, say, the Disney Sleeping Beauty, but I did hear it in the reconstruction. Oh, well. Reconstruction also included a Cinderella and Prince Charming variation that was, indeed charming, and Florestan and his Sisters were the Fairies of Assorted Gems and Precious Metals. Sorry, that got tangential.

    Grand pas—perfection. Yes, those fish dives were another BEST EVER. So often there’s some wobbliness about getting the woman out of the turns and into the dive. These were utterly seamless, and even their ending position on each dive (held for as long as the music allows) was a work of art. Not even sure what to call that—fulfilled? throughout the sequence, their energy never dropped? their sense of each other was so fine they moved in perfect unison? I don’t usually have trouble finding the words to describe a perf so readers can “see” the performance they missed, but BEST EVER still doesn’t quite do it. My first experience with Ms Lamb was in Alice, and the way I described her then to my non-dance husband was that she has a wonderful motional quality to her dancing so that even when she’s still, she projects an energy that says she’s still moving. I’d say the same about McRae, and about their unison in double work, especially in those fish dives.

    Again, pointe work just exquisite, and McRae just explodes onto (and around) the stage. I especially like what he or his choreographer or coach did with the ending because so often it looks like “chaine-chaine-chaine-oh, crap-I’ve-run-out-of-music.” I thought I saw one other quick cover when Lamb did her traveling fouettes, which are a fun variant of Aurora’s choreography right there, and I love the supported pirouettes at the end where they’ve now had the girl do half the turns with her arms in (more or less) second and two with her arms 5th en haut.

    So over all a wonderful performance. The Royals are, despite losing Cojacaru and Tamara Roja, still very much on top of their game, and I just love the aesthetic they’ve adopted. Probably should be noting and complimenting the regisseurs and coaches because they’re the ones who help clean up not just the steps but the details: arms, head, eyes (whenever I’ve seen Laura Morera, whose work I don’t know well, her face and eyes are part of the dance movement).

    Two questions for you:
    1) Are those your feet? To die for!
    2) You mentioned the Garden State Plaza. Does that put you in New Jersey? I studied with Jersey Ballet and acquired a lot of my dance knowledge living in Montclair and commuting in to Lincoln Center and City Center any time a dance company was on the boards. Husband? What husband? And I was a pre-teen and teen in Wildwood. My mom still lives in Linwood.
    3) I love ballet so much that one of the main characters in the fantasy world I write about is, of course and among other things, a ballerina!
    4) Have you seen the other ballets in the series and, if so, did you do a blog review?
    5) Please feel free to respond off-blog if you like: caros [at] xmission [dot] com.

    Again, thanks for posting something meaningful. And yuh, I’ll take Google maps over a GPS any day!

    • robin says:

      hi karen!
      thanks again for you comment/blog post 😉

      i’ll answer the easy questions at the end first-
      yes, they are my feet- thank you! but i haven’t danced on pointe for years. i was visiting my brother in colorado – he is a photographer so we did a few photos for fun & i dragged out some old pointe shoes- to be honest it was pretty painful as i had been off them so long!

      yep- new jersey! but i actually live in rockland county, new york – just bordering bergen county, NJ and i teach in bergenfield.
      i saw the swan lake last month and a nutcracker two years ago i think. i wrote a short bit on the swan lake (there’s a link on the side of this page) but it’s not quite a review. (also i’ve written a little post on yuhui )

      i think you must be much more of a sleeping beauty expert than i – i’ve seen several and lots of YT clips but am not entirely knowledgeable on the many different productions. most recently i’ve seen ABTs current production, which is not the greatest. they cut out all the fairytale dances for some reason (except bluebird) which i think is a shame. yes, i agree red & the wolf were fantastic in the cinema broadcast & puss & boots were great too! i should have mentioned them but at that point it was midnite and i was fearing my post getting too long!

      ive seen cynthia gregorys rose & yes, she is amazing!! i actually remember seeing it on tv sometime in the early 80s i think! (& have seen it YT since). ive seen bits of evgenia’s but will def look for the full!

      LOVED carabosses demise at the kiss -agree that was fab! loved everything about the carabosse role in this production.

      sarah lamb’s final turn was probably a good save but no matter- she was fantastic. & btw – mcrae’s chaine turns- holy crap! like lightning!! he is phenomenal! and i love male adagio solos too 🙂

      going to stop for now but thanks you again for commenting and for all your kind words! are you on twitter btw? i am @mahrobi if you are 🙂

    • robin says:

      hm, i thought i responded briefly the other day (saying i would repsond soon!) but maybe i never hit the reply button? oops!

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