By Kathi E.B. Ellis for WFPL
April 9, 2017
Friday’s opening performance of “The Sleeping Beauty” began with three generations of Louisville Ballet leadership taking their place in front of the grand drape — and it represents, in some ways, the group’s progress over the 65 years being celebrated this season.
This version is one that former artistic director Alun Jones created for the Louisville Ballet in 1987. Former principal dancer Helen Starr staged it. And Jones’ sets and costumes (the latter co-designed with Peter Farmer) have been carefully restored from that previous production.
In the Prologue alone, this production fields about 60 performers. An impressive feat, as the full-time company numbers 26 dancers and the trainee company 15. The crowd scenes fill the stage, and their groupings complement the massive palace sets Jones provides.
The size of the company has an impact on this grandest of classical story ballets, as many of the dancers are doing double and triple duty, dancing multiple roles, during the Prologue and succeeding three acts.
The ballet becomes an endeavor in stamina, as well as artistry and technique. For example, the charming Garland Dance in Act Two on opening night seemed tired and didn’t sparkle as much as the Prologue divertissements had. And it must also be noted that the trainee company dancers are much more accomplished at the end of this season than they were in the season opener, “Swan Lake,” in which their swans were quite clunky.