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the sleeping beauty: review

Lana Jones in David McAllister's The Sleeping Beauty. The Australian Ballet 2015. photo Jeff Busby

Lana Jones in David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty. The Australian Ballet 2015. photo Jeff Busby

Sheer opulence and grace is just one way to describe the Australian Ballet’s rendition of The Sleeping Beauty. David McAllister’s retelling of the classic Grimms fairytale entwined white rats, bluebirds, woodland creatures and a magnanimous Lilac Fairy onto the lavish sets. The plush costumes, dreamy orchestra and majestic decorum played a pivoting role in bringing the magical characters to life.

The opening stage reminiscent of an ancient fairytale book, was drawn to reveal an extravagant palatial court. Designer Gabriela Tylesova brings forth fantastical designs to the performance. Breathtaking marble floors, spiralling porcelain columns and a scenic backdrop of the ocean from the castle ledged on a cliff makes you wonder about the reality of the situation. Courtiers sashayed in sparkling embellishments, faux fur robes, ruffled dresses and flowing gowns.

The first act celebrates the christening of Princess Aurora with sprightly fairies dancing along to shower their wishes. Bathed in impressive raiment in moonlight white, sunbeam yellow, glimmering orange, coral, deep burgundy and mauve, the fairies flaunted beady wings and glamorous headpieces. Each fairy has a definitive trait with Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s orchestra complimenting their character flawlessly. Tutus sprinkled with crystals and layered with intricate petals, heightened the character of each fairy. Miwako Kubota as The Fairy of Temperament popped out with zeal, nailing every invigorating dance and setting a whim sickle spirit. Tchaikovsky’s spellbinding music transcended from romantic and intense to magical and dreamy. It dramatically contributed to character development and growth through the acts.

Lynette Wills as Carabosse, the ‘evil’ fairy of wisdom, makes a fiery entrance with her giant white rat minions. With grim military jackets and elongated tails, these fantastical creatures set a rather menacing picture. Their explosive energy, perfect balance and superhuman leaps was a crowd pleaser. Storming around in an intimidating black lace dress set with glimmering stones, Carabosse throws curses and exits with a blast of fire.

But we don’t see enough of Carabosse as expected from a good versus evil story. Probably because this rendition of Sleeping Beauty focuses on a philosophical journey of emotions and human nature rather than a battle against ends.

Lana Jones as Princess Aurora maintained beautiful fluidity and impressive balance. Her purity and innocence was reflected in her ability to express emotion through strong strokes and spot-on pirouettes. She chooses her suitor by giving a rose to each of the princes lined up for her hand in marriage. Carabosse disguises herself and hands a spindle to the curious Aurora who falls dramatically in the midst of a lively dance.

The second act opens up to the gates of a dark, enchanted castle, overgrown with magical plants nestled in the woods. The castle sleeps with Aurora tucked away into a glittering gold casket. The Lilac Fairy – Amber Scott, plays a key role in rekindling the love between the lead couple. Her mesmerizing charm is evident with graceful strokes and a generous character. Woodland nymphs and creatures of the forest come alive as they light the stage with immaculately synchronised magical saunters.

Kevin Jackson who plays Prince Desire, undertakes an emotional journey of love, passion and craving. As a duet, the couple pull off technically assured turns beautifully. With controlled jumps and precision, Kevin Jackson masks the strain required to balance Aurora. The duo rejoice their love dancing through rose gardens and magical forests.

The final act is a grand masked ball celebrating Aurora’s coronation. The design and theme setting draws inspiration from the regime of Louis XIV of France. The ball room is embellished in rich tufts of gold and cream. Ornate candelabras dangled delicately from the ceiling, sparkling away to glory.

Courtiers and guards adorned in baroque gowns and suits drifted elegantly across the floor. The royal guards looked like stone sculpted mannequins, with their flawless posture and composure. Chengwu Guo and Ako Kondo’s duet stood out with powerful jumps and energy that seemed to grow with every leap. Courtiers cloaked as fairytale characters like Red Riding Hood and Cinderella amidst others, attended the masquerade. Cinderella’s peasant disguise was surprisingly yanked off to reveal a lovely blue gown, much to the audience’s delight.

Aurora and Prince Desire donned a six metre trail of delicate gold organza. The couple’s role as lead duet was slightly masked with other group performances maintaining prominence. Fairies, white rats and courtiers played an immense role in shaping the plot of the acts immaculately. I watched on like a doe-eyed child, glued to every perfect pirouette, leap and lift. The magic couldn’t help wafting across to the audience, igniting sparks of awe.

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