With a hauntingly beautiful score by Tchaikovsky, Sleeping Beauty is one of the most beloved and difficult ballets. This weekend, Reno residents will have the opportunity to see this ballet performed at the Pioneer Center in collaboration with the A.V.A. Ballet Theatre and the Reno Philharmonic.
Artistic director Alexander Van Alstyne describes the production as a “massive undertaking,” requiring the coordination of numerous technical elements and featuring dancers from four different studios in Reno, as well as professional dancers from throughout the West Coast. Kate Crews of Ballet West will appear as Princess Aurora, and Jason Linsley will dance the role of Prince Florimund.
While the list of professional guest artists is impressive, so is the number of talented Reno dancers who will be taking the stage in the production.
During a recent rehearsal, local dancers practice a scene in which the fairies of the kingdom have been invited to the castle upon the birth of the king’s young daughter, the Princess Aurora. Each of the fairies performs her own special dance in which she presents the young princess with one of several gifts—beauty, generosity, passion, song and vitality.
The fairies’ gift-giving is interrupted by the arrival of Carabosse, an evil fairy who is angry that she has not been given an invitation. She places a curse on Aurora, declaring that some day she will prick her finger and die. Luckily, the Lilac Fairy has not yet had a chance to give her gift.
Eve Allen, who plays the Lilac Fairy, describes her gift as the one that “lessens the impact” of Carabosse’s curse. Her gift is that Aurora will not die, but will sleep for 100 years until she is awakened by the kiss of a prince.
“When it starts out, she’s not really different from the other fairies,” Allen says about her character. “I end up becoming the fairy who has to watch out after the castle until the prince comes 100 years later.”
Sleeping Beauty is a favorite of children, who love seeing the story of the beautiful Princess Aurora and the recreation of the world of fairies and magic. This production also features dancers of numerous ages, including many local children who play Fairy Attendants.
Van Alstyne has used much of the original choreography of Marius Petipa, who staged the first production of the ballet in St. Petersburg in 1890 and created many of ballet’s favorite and most demanding dances. Van Alstyne has also re-staged and re-choreographed some parts. This is “to add some new spice and bring new creativity” to the ballet and to suit each dancer’s style, personality and talents.
During a break from rehearsal, the dancers discuss their suitability for each of their roles. Emily Bedell, who plays the Canari Fairy, enjoys the fast pace, technical demands and fun spirit of her dance, as she gives the gift of song to Princess Aurora.
“Everyone gets to put their own personality in their dance,” says Nicole Shutt, who plays the Violente Fairy, giving Aurora the gift of passion. Shutt relates to her character by thinking about her own love for dance. The gift of passion means “having that love for something,” she says.