PNB's 'Sleeping Beauty' awakens a fairy-tale world
A review of Pacific Northwest Ballet's otherworldly, if sometimes flawed, production of "The Sleeping Beauty." Kaori Nakamura, Lucien Postlewaite and Carla Körbes lead an enchanting cast.
Seattle Times movie critic
'The Sleeping Beauty'7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and Feb. 11-13, 1 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 13-14, Pacific Northwest Ballet, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $25-$160 (206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org).
Classical ballet lives in a world unrelated to our own; one in which tutus softly rustle, men soar through the air on invisible wings, and women dance on the tips of their toes as if it were a perfectly reasonable thing to do, as easy as breathing. And Ronald Hynd's "The Sleeping Beauty," on display at Pacific Northwest Ballet, has moments of beauty that can only be described as otherworldly: fairies in gold-encrusted tutus floating onstage in the arms of cavaliers, as if touching the ground were for mere mortals; a ballerina in lilac, her delicate arms seeming to encircle the stage like trailing vines; a princess beaming as she balances in an arabesque so perfect that time seems to stand still.
And when a performance, such as opening night's, is marred by a few mistakes, it has the odd effect of making us appreciate the art — and the artists — all the more. This ethereal, effortless movement is fiendishly difficult; sustaining it over three hours even more so. The fact that magic was created Thursday night, despite a few slips onstage and more than a few sour notes from the orchestra pit (this lovely Tchaikovsky score deserves better), bodes well for the ballet's two-week run; mistakes can be easily fixed, but magic is something rare.
Kaori Nakamura, the opening-night Aurora when PNB last performed the ballet in 2006, has a little magic of her own going on: This veteran ballerina doesn't appear to have aged a day, nor has her dancing. As the teenage princess, she burst onto the stage as if ready to sweep the world into her arms, and held the breathless balances in the Rose Adagio with a smiling ease.
Lucien Postlewaite, a dancer of rare drama and abandon, at times seemed to be having an uncharacteristic off night: As the prince, he struggled with an Act III solo, and he and Nakamura had trouble with a series of dramatic, swooping lifts. But the two have an enchanting chemistry — that awakening kiss, captured upstage in golden light, seemed from a dream — and danced beautifully together in the vision scene. This prince falls in love, poignantly but subtly, with a princess who wafted past him as if sleepwalking on pointe.
Carla Körbes, as the Lilac Fairy, brought to the role a lovely, lighter-than-air quality; this fairy never quite seemed to need the floor. Olivier Wevers was a devilishly wicked Carabosse, and a host of PNB students, from very young to near-professional, charmingly filled the stage of this spectacle.
And spectacular is the only word for Peter Docherty's set and costume design — filled with golden vines, leafy curtains, vivid jewel tones, and tutus sparkling like spring rain — and Randall G. Chiarelli's lighting, which let us believe in fairy tales.
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