Human Abstract gave Louisville Ballet and its audiences insight into an innovative future of ways to express movement, emotion, and narrative. Now the company will reflect and pay tribute to its roots of classical ballet. Sleeping Beauty is one of the greatest classical story ballets in history. In sharp contrast to Human Abstract, Sleeping Beauty’s method of storytelling is concrete and definitive. The villains and heroes are straightforward and certain. It is appropriate that Louisville Ballet would perform two such ballets coming from complete opposite sides of the spectrum back to back. Not only does this emphasize the versatility of the company dancers, but it also stresses the scope of the art form. One reason why ballet is such an enduring and progressive art form is its ability to rely upon its origins while also reaching towards the future. As the art form continues to keep those century old ballets alive and relevant, it develops new, inventive ways to create and experience ideas as well. Sleeping Beauty is an ageless tale. Though the ballet was first performed in 1890, current viewers in 2017 can still be swept away into its fantastical story of love, villainy, and triumph. The magical kingdom with its fairies and spells will give viewers respite from the cares and worries of daily life. The wicked Carabosse and her witches and henchmen will send shivers down audience’s spines. The awakening kiss and ensuing celebration will spread smiles all around. The brilliance of this ballet is its timelessness and endurance. That something created in the nineteenth century can still move people today speaks volumes to the importance of this ballet.
Many versions of the Sleeping Beauty story exist. The ballet was based upon Charles Perrault’s tale, “La Belle au Bois Dormant,” written in 1697. This story, true to many original fairy tales, possesses many gruesome elements. Most of these, such as the Prince’s mother attempting to throw her two grandchildren into a pit of vipers, do not appear in the ballet. In most translations of Perrault’s version, seven fairies attend the princess’s christening ceremony, bestowing gifts of beauty, the temper or wit of an angel, grace, and the abilities to dance perfectly, sing like a nightingale, and play every kind of instrument with the utmost skill. The seventh fairy delays granting her gift until the eighth fairy—who had not been invited to the christening—delivers her gift. This component of the story remains the same for most versions. The slighted fairy curses that the princess will prick her finger and die, and the last fairy saves the princess from death, ensuring she will but sleep. Contrasting to Perrault’s story, the ballet Sleeping Beauty only has six fairies and the one slighted—Carabosse. The leader of the six is the Lilac Fairy, representing all that is true and good and beautiful in the world. The names and titles of the remaining five fairies have undergone many alterations through the years. In Louisville Ballet’s version, the fairies are Charm, Generosity, Beauty, Gaiety, and Temperament.
Another popular telling of the Sleeping Beauty story is Disney’s cartoon. In the Disney version only three fairies accompany the slighted one. These three are the much loved Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. Flora grants the princess beauty, Fauna song, but Merryweather is interrupted by the evil fairy—deemed Maleficent in this version. Merryweather then acts as the Lilac fairy, saving the princess from death. Though the names, appearances, and numbers of Disney’s fairies and that of the ballet’s may vary significantly, the core of their intentions and characters remain the same.
The ballet version of Sleeping Beauty was created by Marius Petipa and Ivan Vsevolojsky and choreographed by Marius Petipa. The music was composed by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Sleeping Beauty concludes Louisville Ballet’s tribute to this renowned composer, having also performed his Swan Lake and Nutcracker in this anniversary season. The music will transport audiences into this magical land, and the dancing will bring the characters to life. The ballet was first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia at the Maryinsky Theatre on January 15, 1890. On April seventh and eighth, Louisville Ballet will bring this magical tale to life at the Kentucky Center. The Ballet welcomes back previous Artistic Director, Alun Jones, as well as his wife, Helen Starr, former Associate Artistic Director, Ballet Mistress and beloved dancer with the company. These esteemed individuals bring with them invaluable wisdom and insight. They will ensure the ballet will continue its tradition of inspiring and stimulating dancers and enchanting audiences.
Good and Evil are very clear cut in Sleeping Beauty. There is not much grey area in this ballet. Though everything in our world is not black and white, and we do live amidst much grey, there are parts of life that are that simple. Right and Wrong. Good and Evil. Sleeping Beauty is a story that reminds us to fight for the Good in the world. To triumph over Evil. To believe in the power of Love. Sleeping Beauty will fly viewers back to simpler times of childhood imagination. No matter what telling of this story, one element always remains true—the princess is always awoken with a kiss. A kiss that gives hope for a bright, blissful future. Sleeping Beauty is a grand finale for Louisville Ballet’s Sixty-fifth Anniversary Season. This ballet will propel the company into its own bright and blissful future.
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