Russian National Ballet Theatre Impresses with ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at the VPAC

Marius Petipa’s classic choreography was beautifully revived by the Russian National Ballet Theatre at the Valley Performing Arts Center this Saturday.

The performance stayed true to the original choreography which was first performed in 1890, and doted a cast that had unshaken technique. While Princess Aurora, portrayed by Ekaterna Egorova was flawless technically, performing some of the hardest en point (in points shoes) routines ever produced, it was Ayos Zakan as Prince Desire who stole the show.

The full-length three act play, set to the music of Tchaikovsky, began with a royal setting as the King and Queen hosted a christening for their baby princess Aurora. The prologue’s set was simple and elegant which let the focus be on the dancers. This opening scene introduced the many good fairies led by the Lilac fairy, danced by Maria Klyueva, as well as the evil Fairy Carabosse (Evgeny Rudakov), who cursed the infant princess after the royals failed to invite her to the party.

Klyueva was not only a pristine dancer, with perfect lines and impeccable feet, but she captured the nurturing qualities that the Lilac fairy, who is the saving grace of princess Aurora and the entire kingdom, is known to behold. Her possession and understanding of the character was evident throughout the performance.

After a long prologue, in which the Lilac fairy reduces Aurora’s curse from death to a 100-year slumber (which will include the entire kingdom), Egorova, the pre-sleeping beauty, is finally introduced, at her 16th birthday. This is where the magic of Tchaikovsky’s composition fully materializes. The build up to Aurora’s arrival is heightened by the music as her “suitors” await, her. In this scene, Egorova proved she was an elite ballerina as she completed one of the most difficult routines in classical ballet. During one sequence, Aurora must stand en point arabesque (one leg extended backwards with a knee straight and the support leg propped on the tips of her toes) while each of her suitors took her hand and spun her 360 degrees, with no relief from the extension or being en point between each of the men. Egorova performed the task without a shudder.

The disappointment came at the end of the act, when she pricks her finger and falls a sleep. She does so almost too perfectly as she produced unshaken chasses (quick steps, where one foot chases the other forward) before falling stoically to the ground. It would have been more desirable to see her a bit daunted by the curse, at least with an exasperated facial expression to accompany such a fall.

Regardless of the several suitors and male company members that were introduced before the intermission, there had yet to be a strong masculine presence that Petipa was known for having in his ballets. That disappointment dissipated at the arrival of the Prince Desire in the second act. Zakan produced an impeccable performance as he combined strength, grace and technique in his solos as well as his pas de deux’s with both the Lilac fairy and Princess Aurora.

Harmonious dancers, in traditional dress and simplistic set dressing, combined to make a pleasant experience at the VPAC, in an effort that was an excellent tribute to Petipa’s original masterpiece.