By Artistic Director Peter Boal
In 1890, Seattle was a relatively lawless frontier town. There was little plumbing, plenty of mudflats, and too many taverns. The Duwamish and Suquamish were losing land and rights to the countless fortune-seekers pouring into and passing through the region at the dawn of the Klondike gold rush. And almost halfway around the world in St. Petersburg, Russia, nymphs were putting on pointe shoes, violins were tuning, and royalty was sipping champagne as the curtain rose on the world premiere The Sleeping Beauty.
Like gold on this coast, there was a ballet boom happening during the late 1800s in Russia. With The Sleeping Beauty (La Belle au Bois Dormant), Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky debuted his lavish score for full orchestra alongside original choreography by Marius Petipa. PNB proudly presents this staging of the ballet by Ronald Hynd, which was originally created for English National Ballet in 1993. So much has changed since the acclaimed premiere almost 130 years ago. So why are we still enthralled with this ballet?
Everyone in the audience will and should have their own answer to this question. Here are a few reasons why I love The Sleeping Beauty: The dancing is so ripe with challenges and rewards. As you watch Princess Aurora suspend on the tips of her toes on one foot for what seems an eternity in the Rose Adagio, you will surely be impressed and may even recall why you told your mother you were ready to quit ballet. The precision of the corps de ballet is exquisite in its line, patterns, and shared musicality. Consider how much time the Bluebird floats above the stage, lofting from one jump to the next. These are the steps and challenges dancers were trained to tackle, and the triumphs are ours to share.
I also love the contrast between evil Carabosse and the sage Lilac Fairy. To be honest, I believe we each hold qualities of both characters and work within ourselves to ensure good dominates evil. The story resonates because we don’t hate Carabosse. There’s something vaguely familiar about her anger and impulses. In the end, we realize she just needs a few more timeouts and maybe a little life coaching from the Lilac Fairy.
I love the fact that so many patrons will walk through the doors of McCaw Hall for the first time or for the first time in a long time this February. Ballets like The Sleeping Beauty are renowned and hold the name recognition that brings crowds. We welcome you to the wonder of ballet and invite you to treasure what was unveiled in 1890 and to see what’s ahead in 2019. Ballet carries its traditions with pride. Choreographers continue to address the pointe shoe, character development, and original scores.
There’s a wealth of treasures to discover through dance, and PNB is the perfect host. If you’re not already a subscriber and just recently entered this enchanted forest, visit our website to learn more. Be a part of the history of ballet and witness its bright future. Thank you for joining us today.