'Sleeping Beauty' awakens magic of ballet at its best
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Monday, February 15, 2010
2/15/10 at 8:55 AM
To call "The Sleeping Beauty" a story ballet is something of a misnomer.
Even Tchaikovsky, who composed for this ballet one of his most magnificent scores, thought that the scenario was rather thin when it came to plot and drama.
What story there is in "The Sleeping Beauty" — a young girl is magically made to sleep for 100 years until a prince awakens her with a kiss — exists only to provide two things: an atmosphere of magic and beauty and child-like simplicity, and a framework that allows a ballet company to really show what it can do with all the challenges of the classical style of dance.
The last time Tulsa Ballet presented this work in 2006, it brought in Viviana Durante, an international star, to dance the title role. This year, the cast was all Tulsa Ballet, with principal dancer Karina Gonzalez — who was a corps de ballet dancer making her debut in a principal role in that 2006 production — as the star of Friday's opening night performance.
The ballet itself had been personalized for Tulsa, as artistic director Marcello Angelini created new choreography for the Waltz scene, the Hunting scene and the Precious Jewels dance, as well as reworking the whole character of the Carabosse — the evil spirit who cast the spell on the ballet's heroine — and creating a linking scene between the prologue and the first act.
The end result was a sumptuous evening of dance amid the equally opulent sets and in the dazzling costumes supplied by Houston Ballet — one of the few times these elements have been seen outside the confines of the Wortham Theater where Houston Ballet regularly performs.
Gonzalez has developed into an impressive dancer since that first "Sleeping Beauty," and her performance Friday was full of personality and brio. She's always shown those qualities in the showy moments of the roles she danced — her performance of the "Rose Adagio," where she would hold herself in perfect balance on one pointe for nearly a minute came close to stopping the show.
But she is getting better and better at infusing the passages that aren't so flashy or challenging with an equal sense of drama and character, developing that sense of presence that marks a true ballerina — someone who doesn't need to move to command an audience's attention.
Demi-soloist Soo Youn Cho had the role for the Thursday dress rehearsal (which we attended) and the Saturday performance. Cho only returned to dancing this season after severely injuring herself in 2008, and her performance Thursday was extremely good. Her dancing was strong and confident, as was her performance as the Lilac Fairy in Friday's performance.
Cho did seem understandably cautious during the "Rose Adagio," more than willing to take the hand of each of the four Cavaliers attending her, and she had trouble holding the climactic fish dive that concludes the Grand Pas de Deux.
Perhaps a portion of Cho's confidence came from her being partnered with principal dancer Alfonso Martin. His work with Cho was impeccable, unobtrusively making her look her best. And his performances of his own solos were energetic and muscular yet elegant, making every combination look effortless.
Gonzalez was paired with principal dancer Wang Yi, who always excels in classical roles. He dances with an appealing lightness and a sharp classical line, and he and Gonzalez work well together, going through the Grand Pas de Deux with a great deal of panache, making this duet an almost joyous thing to watch.
Alexandra Bergman as Carabosse tore through a series of full-out solos with gusto, obviously enjoying the opportunity to be very, very bad. Rupert Edwards and Beatrice Sebelin generated the comedy as the fussily playful Cats; Megan Keough, Ma Cong, Kate Oderkirk and Ricardo Graziano were excellent as the Precious Jewels, as were Ke Da and Ashley Blade-Martin as the Bluebird and Princess Florine.
The ensemble work by the company was impeccable — the pas de six by Sarah Jane Crespo, Federica Bagnera, Leah Gallas, Diana Gomez, Marit van der Wolde and Sebelin was especially impressive, but there wasn't a weak performance in the cast.
Tchaikovsky's music was given a forceful and expressive performance by the Tulsa Symphony under the baton of Tulsa Ballet music director Nathan Fifield, highlighted by some excellent solo performances by concertmaster Winona Fifield, flutist John Rush, harpist Jill Wiebe and cellist Kari Caldwell.
James D. Watts Jr. 581-8478