‘The Sleeping Beauty’ leaps to life on stage with Russian Ballet Theatre

The Russian National Ballet Theatre brought the classic fairytale “Sleeping Beauty” to life at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts Thursday night, with a dazzling and energetic dance performance, beautiful costumes and breathtaking stage scenery.

Audience members both old and young (with several of them sporting tutus and fans) clapped and cheered with the conclusion of each dance, sounding their approval with each triumph, and laughing at the humorous moments within the performance.

“The Sleeping Beauty” is a well-known ballet, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (who also wrote the famed “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker”). The 1959 Disney film of the same name drew inspiration from the ballet, with much of its music either arrangements, or inspiration from the original Tchaikovsky compositions.

The Russian National Ballet Theatre first premiered “The Sleeping Beauty” in 1980, and continues to perform it on stage to this day. The Theatre itself was founded in 1989 in Moscow, and has since grown to include 50 dancers, performing ballet throughout the world.

Thursday’s performance included 19 different dancers, using ballet to illustrate the tale of Princess Aurora (Alexandra Krukova), born to the King (Dmitry Romanov) and Queen (Natalia Ivanova). When the Master of Ceremonies (Denis Onufriychuck) forgets to invite the evil Fairy Carabosse (Evgeniy Rudakov) to Aurora’s Christening, Carabosse curses the princess to die at the age of 16, when she pricks her finger on a spindle.

However, the good Fairy Lilac alters the curse, making so that Aurora falls asleep instead, wakened only by true love’s kiss. When the princess turns 16, she is tricked by Carabosse into pricking her finger, and thus descends into slumber. Fairy Lilac casts a spell to make the entire kingdom fall asleep, and covers the land in bushes and shrubberies. One hundred years later she sends a vision to Prince Desire (Dmitriy Sitkevich), who fights his way to the princess and wakens her. The two then marry and live happily ever after

The ballet, though using no dialogue, told the story through both dance and gesture, conveying the triumph, sorrow and intrigue of the characters with the energetic and physical motions of ballet theatre. The scenery, handpainted, brought an extra dimension to the already-stunning performance, and the costumes helped each character stand out.  

The performers gestured, pirouetted, lunged and leapt across the stage, bedecked in the revelry of nobles or in the sparkling tutus of a troupe of fairies, all dancing en pointe and soaring gracefully with every jump. At some points the music whipped into a frenzy, with the dancers spinning to a breathtaking speed; at other moments it was slow, and graceful, such as when Desire` and Aurora performed their final, tender lover’s dance in Act III.

The Russian National Ballet Theatre, like many ballet theatres in Russia, start training their performers young. Dancers are chosen around the age of five, said company director Alexander Daev, for the physically demanding career of ballet.

The difficulty of ballet as a dance style made Thursday’s performance all the more impressive for some.

“(Ballet) is the hardest form of dance you can do,” said Storrs resident Doreen Philpotts, who attended the performance, and has taught ballet for Connecticut Concert Ballet.

“It takes an enormous amount of strength and body discipline,” Philpotts said. “They make it look so easy. They’re very strong. They’re very powerful. It was wonderful.”

For other audience members, the main appeal of the performance was in both the characters and the story.

“I love traditional ballet. There’s something so serene about it,” said Helen Sanborn, an Asheville resident who studied ballet in her youth. “I like the intrigue of the evil witch, (and) the contrast with (Fairy Lilac) undoing (the curse).”

The performance concluded with Aurora and Desire’s wedding, which included several dance sequences between other fairytale characters such as Little Red Riding Hood (Daria Ledinkova), Puss-in-Boots (Sergey Kotov) and others.

With the curtain call came a standing ovation and thunderous applause from the audience, both for the story’s happily ever after, and the hard efforts of the ballet dancers who brought it to life.  


Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.