The Royal Ballet: 28 October & 10 December 2011
The narrative of The Sleeping Beauty is but a child’s fairytale. Such a simplistic tale means that it is Beauty’s pure classical ballet choreography and the challenge it presents, that gives it a meaningful place within 21st century ballet repertoire. This ballet is the ultimate test of a dancer’s line, stamina and focus. It is for this reason that different casts of dancers can make for such varied viewing experiences.
The prologue centers on six short solos by the fairies. The key to these solos lie in the lightness and fleetness of the dancers footwork, and disappointingly the majority of dancers in these roles fell short of the mark. Also present were a few stiff backs making it clear the Company need to make way for some of the talent we know lies in the corps de ballet. The stand out fairies were the ever-delightful Yuhui Choe as the Fairy of the Crystal Fountain (and an effortless Princess Florine in Act III), and Emma Maguire as the Fairy of the Gold Vine who has such an appealing stage presence.
The revelation however, of this season’s Beauty has been Claire Calvert in the role of the Lilac Fairy. Calvert’s Lilac Fairy is mature, commanding and technically astute. She achieved the difficult set of Italian fouettes with ease and beauty (she is more than just a pair of exquisite legs and feet). She is an exciting and interesting talent and I shall be watching her future casting with interest.
Princess Aurora is one of the most difficult classical female roles to dance. Former Royal Ballet dancer Deborah Bull describes the famous Rose Adagio as “quite simply, the most terrifying dance in the ballet repertoire“. In Act 1 Sarah Lamb emerges on stage in a calm and self-assured manner achieving the round of balances and promenades beautifully. Lamb’s Aurora is light and elegant but can sometimes fade into the background. In an alternative cast, Lauren Cuthbertson as Aurora emerges on stage slightly manic perhaps in anticipation of the very difficult Rose Adagio. However, she is sublime in Act II particularly in the Vision Scene solo where she draws her audience into Tchaikovsky’s haunting melodies.
Lamb’s Prince Florimund, Steven McRae is perfection in motion. The carriage of his body, his wonderfully expressive eyes and of course, his resplendent technique, make him an absolute joy to watch. In an alternative cast, Cuthbertson’s Prince, Sergei Polunin has the ideal face and stature of a fairytale prince – his dancing as always, can take your breath away. The Royal Ballet have a rare gift, two incredibly gifted and versatile male dancers. I only hope that future programming (if we are to see Beauty again within the next few years) will keep the run short as there are so many alternative, relevant ballets that will keep these two dancers interested and challenged – and along with them, the audience.