Few personalities in the ballet world question the essence of classical dance nowadays. Masterpieces such as “The Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake” are little more than gainful blockbusters in December programs. “The Sleeping Beauty” is no exception: its seemingly Manichean argument, happy-ending, fairies' parade and decorative choreography had plunged the ballet into formaldehyde for centuries. So, when a modern-minded choreographer took on an age-old fairytale ballet, one could think that the outcome had to be of the cerebral type, for a few jaded balletomanes to enjoy. Fortunately, Ratmansky’s revival is anything but a pedantic throwback to the days of yore. He doesn’t lecture the audience. Nor does he keep ballet in mothballs. Restoring Petipa's lustrous classicism, his approach highlights ballet as a theatrical art, thus fighting a strong anti-narrative trend. And with a little help from his ABT friends, he succeeds partly in casting a new light on that distorted tale on pointe. Although he tries to make ballet more approachable, he occasionally lends the piece an unintentional elitist tone; for the many, his reconstruction of “The Sleeping Beauty” might have looked a little jet-lagged.
Misty Copeland and Gabe Stone Shayer in Alexei Ratmansky's “The Sleeping Beauty.” Photograph by Doug Gifford
When a choreographer takes on volcanic and iconic works from American musical giants like Leonard Bernstein and John Adams one move they could take is to cool them down with a couple of more soothing European works in between.Continue Reading