Pacific Northwest Ballet
McGaw Hall Opera House
February 2, 2019
The Sleeping Beauty
Classicism versus Romanticism has long been a back-and-forth tug of war in literature and in the arts. Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty to me represents the apex of classicism in dance, with its symmetry and order and how the return to this order concludes the work. This order is interrupted early by the intrusion of Carabosse who was very miffed at not being invited to Aurora’s Christening.
In four parts (Prologue; Act 1 “The Curse;” Act II “The Vision and Awakening” also known as the Panorama; and Act III “The Wedding”), each one is strong both in terms of moving the story forward and also in pure dance. Interesting, fun, beautiful, elegant.
I’ve long admired Leta Biasucci from the time she was with Oregon Ballet Theatre to her subsequent career at PNB. The part of Princess Aurora is huge — she appears in three of the four parts, which include three pas de deux, group dancing, solos, and having to carry the show. Biasucci was more than up to the challenge with her sparkling and dazzling technique and radiant smile. This was a 16-year-old character going places. Her very first balance in attitude (first of four suitors) was short but by the time she got to the long promenades and balances at the end of the Rose Adagio, they were rock solid. Her joyous entrance to her birthday party in Act 1 portended a great time and relaxed audience members. She was confident and sharply attacked the Petipa steps.
Lucien Postlewaite enters as Prince Florimund in the Hunting Scene of Act II and was well-matched with Biasucci. Postlewaite also has great technique and now, some years after first joining PNB, a superb maturity and authority (he also leaves the audience feeling assured), imbuing every gesture and moment with clarity. He’s additionally a great partner, and if I were Biasucci, would feel like I was in good hands and able to relax 100 percent into my character, as she clearly did.
The depth of the PNB ranks shows itself at every level. Lindsi Dec had the fun of playing the snooty Countess in Act II and then transformed herself into the radiant ballerina of the Gold and Silver Pas de trois of Act III. Glorious. In this, her leggy line was matched by two of PNB’s tallest long-legged men, Joshua Grant (gold), and Miles Pertl (silver). I adore this dance. It is very “steppy” (read technical) but also fun and a great joy. Pertl missed sticking one landing from a double tour en l’air (to the knee) but recovered quite quickly and was unruffled.
Part of the fun of Act III are the appearances of Perrault fairy tale characters. This version includes three: Puss ‘n’ Boots and the White Cat (always a fun humorous riot — with Margaret Mullin and Ezra Thomson); The Bluebird and Princess Florine with Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan and Kyle Davis; and finally, Angeli Mamon and Dammiel Cruz as Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. The so-called Bluebird Pas de deux is often done as a stand-alone and is a good challenge for repertory students as well as professionals. Ryan nailed the hops en pointe, piqué turns, and echappés. Davis was light on his feet and, in the coda easily sailed through the 24 brisé volé and entrechat six. (It’s interesting to note that the first Bluebird was Enrico Cechetti himself.)
The Grand Pas de deux requires command of the steps, but the hardest part is the style which must show purity of line and simplicity. You also have to be fearless and show the joy of not one but three “fish dives,” and perfect the timing of each (the third is held longer). Biasucci and Postlewaite made this the showcase that it is. Exciting and thrilling all at once.
Jonathan Porretta has long been one of PNB’s most effective dancers. and his natural effusiveness was perfectly melded and deployed as the wicked Carabosse, cackling and enjoying this part. His retirement from the stage has been announced, and he will certainly be missed. Porretta brought 100 percent to each role, many of which are strongly etched into memory — Symphony in C; the prince in Swan Lake; Square Dance; and in contemporary works such as the complete Rite of Spring (a 30-minute solo), and others.
This is a glorious production — with sets, costumes purchased from the English National Ballet, and choreography and staging courtesy of Roland Hynd and Annette Page (based on the original Petipa). It was fun bringing along the daughter of a dance colleague who had never seen PNB nor The Sleeping Beauty. Her reaction and how impressed and thrilled she was, was more than worth it. It was great to show off my hometown major ballet company.
I have to admit being slightly distressed that PNB has announced that it is retiring this particular production but promises a new one at some future date. In my mind, how can you improve on perfection?
The mighty PNB Orchestra was led by maestro Emil de Cou.