Thursday, March 29, 2012: Fairy Tale Ballets

National Theatre Ballet, Cinderella

Wicked stepsisters (P Hrubešová, E Raušerová), Cinderella (A Pollertová) and her tub of lentils in this National Theatre Ballet production.

Two (or Three) Fairy Tale Ballets

The other day we dropped in at the dress rehearsal of the new National Theatre Ballet’s production of Sleeping Beauty. My, my, my.

It’s a true fairy tale brought to life. Think of the light, delicate fairy tale books you read as a child (or are reading to your children today), with all the gorgeous pastel illustrations of the princess, the prince, the fairies. Here it is, dancing, twirling, spinning, leaping on stage right before your very eyes.

And most of the male characters are in high-heeled shoes and mile-high powdered wigs.

This version, choreographed by guest Javiér Torrés, substitutes allegorical “Love” and “Fear” for the traditional Good and Bad fairies. And we can’t help but compare this retelling of a traditional tale to another classic fairy tale recently on the ballet stage, Cinderella. In that story, the step-mother and step-sisters represented the challenge for today’s kids learning to fit into a “blended” family.

There are other interesting differences. The set design and especially the costumes (not to mention the dancing) in Sleeping Beauty are all finely detailed, set in pastel clouds of color. Cinderella presents a more minimalist approach, characterized by shine and gold. (Guest choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot opted for the metaphor of gold rather than glass or crystal for Cinderella’s iconic slippers.)

The two different approaches are clear just by looking at their posters:

Sleeping Beauty Opus OsmThe National Theatre Ballet, Cinderella

Both versions present a story-within-a-story framework, but in Cinderella the interior story is a mini version of the larger action, told in over-the-top burlesque and in bright costumes. In Sleeping Beauty, three mini-tales portraying love and fear are presented charmingly, even coquettishly, each with an amusing little epilogue presented at the curtain call.

Which fairy tale ballet will you like best? You can decide by seeing Sleeping Beauty (Šípková Růženka), in several performances at the end of March and beginning of April; Cinderella (Popelka), in mid-April and at the end of that month; and don’t overlook yet a third choice, Goldilocks (Zlatovláska), April 21 only. All three offer something special for kids (of any age). — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Pavel Hejný

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