Kate Snedeker

Robin Mathes in "Sleeping Beauty" Photo © John Hall

Robin Mathes in “Sleeping Beauty”
Photo © John Hall

Alberta is no stranger to ballet that doesn’t toe the classical line.  Recent forays outside the traditional ballet box have included Jean Grand-Maître’s “Loves Lies Bleeding” and “Balletlujah”, the Royal Winnipeg’s “Wonderland” and  Crystal Pite’s “Emergence”.   However, on November 6 and 7, Les Grands Ballets Canadien de Montreal will stretch the ballet horizons of Edmonton audiences with Mats Ek’s very modern take on ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

Those familiar with Ek’s choreography know not to expect the traditional; the inspiration for this ballet was a young drug addict Ek saw during a walk in Geneva, Switzerland.  Needless to say, this is not a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ that Disney or Petipa would recognize.  Aside from the classic Tchaikovsky score, Ek has remodeled the story into very modern creation for an adult audience.   As Ek says “I have an irrepressible storytelling urge. Rereading myths, legends and fairy tales, discovering their obvious aspects, sabotaging them and re-creating them—in other words, taking them seriously—is to my mind an act of the greatest significance”.

"Sleeping Beauty" Photo © John Hall

“Sleeping Beauty”
Photo © John Hall

In “Sleeping Beauty”, Ek reverese the ordinary and the extraordinary, so that the fairy tale is not about finding a fantasy prince, but about the joys in stability and the day to day.   There are no princes or princesses here – Aurora is spoiled teenager, battling the scourge of the ‘evil parents’.  She finds her escape in the form of Carabosse, an addict, who introduces her to the underground drug scene.  There are no spindles or thorns, instead the famous slumber is a coma induced by a needle-full of heroin.  The only one who can save her, and lead her away from addiction, is Prince Desire, an average guy who has a little help from a Gold Fairy.

Ek created “Sleeping Beauty” for the Hamburg Ballet, with the world premiere on June 2, 1996.  The ballet has since come into the repertoire of Swedish companies such as the Cullberg Ballet and the Goteborg Ballet; a award winning televised performance of the the ballet was aired in 1999.  The ballet debuted in the UK in 1999, when the Cullberg Ballet performed it at the Edinburgh Festival.  The production was first seen in North America and Canada, when the Cullberg Ballet performed in Ottawa in 2001.  Now, with the Les Ballets Canadien de Montreal, the Halloween evening performance in Calgary will mark the ballet’s Alberta premiere.

For Ek, dance and art were in his life from the very beginning.  Ek was born in Malmö, Sweden in 1945, the son of renowned actor Anders Ek and the famous choreographer Brigit Cullberg.  Though he studied dance as a child, Ek focused on acting until he was 27, when he joined his mother’s company, the Cullberg Ballet.  He also danced briefly with the Ballett der Deutschen Oper am Rhein and the Nederlands Dans Theater, but spent the vast majority of his performing career with the Cullberg Ballet.

At the Cullberg, Ek was co-director with his mother until 1985, and then sole director until his departure in 1993.  He choreographed more than 20 pieces for the company, including some of his most famous pieces (“Giselle” and “Swan Lake”).  Since leaving the Cullberg Ballet, Ek has travelled the world to set and create ballets on a variety of companies.  Many of his pieces have been televised to great acclaim; two productions received Emmys.  Among the companies who have danced his works include the Paris Opera Ballet, Cullberg Ballet, Goteborg Ballet, Compañía Nacional de Danza de Madrid, Munich Ballet,  Royal Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance, the Bavarian Opera Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Nederlands Dans Theater and the Hamburg Ballet

Sleeping Beauty” runs in Calgary from October 31 to November 3, and in Edmonton from November 6 to 7.  More information on the ballet and tickets can be found at the Alberta Ballet website: http://www.albertaballet.com/content/sleeping-beauty-1


Clips of Ek pieces

Sleeping Beauty (Goteborg Ballet): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrbN-AHkmfg

Sleeping Beauty (Les Grands Ballet…): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqvk1nXYuWY

Giselle (Bayerische Staatsoper): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A46kgynLpmA

Julie and Romeo (Royal Swedish Ballet): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynIWouIIEAc

Aluminium (Ballett am Rheim): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyM5cB-Adr0