Review: Performance draws cheers

Performance draws cheers

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer | pjacobi@heraldt.com
March 26, 2012

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The story goes that when “The Sleeping Beauty” premiered at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater in 1890, the attending Tsar Alexander III beckoned Tchaikovsky to the imperial box. “Very nice,” he told the composer. A measured remark, to be sure. Tchaikovsky’s response is not known, but he is believed to have hoped for a more effusive reaction.

There’ve been far more effusive reactions since to a ballet that has become one of the world’s most prominent. And the cheers-filled reaction to Friday’s performance of the evening-long extravaganza by the Indiana University Ballet Theater seemed to reflect a far better than “very nice” judgment from the audience gathered in the Musical Arts Center.

The production on view was new, with a set design by C. David Higgins, his last for IU; the prolific designer has retired from the Jacobs School faculty. There was plenty for the eyes to feast upon. The Higgins surroundings suggested the 19th century embrace of glass environs such as London’s Crystal Palace, expansive, inviting. And, save for when the evil fairy Carabosse intrudes to cast her spell upon the proceedings, the stage was brightly lit, as if joyful sunshine were illuminating the scene. That very effective lighting, bright and otherwise, was the work of Patrick Mero.

So, for future use, IU Ballet Theater now has an exceptional production, all to the good. But for Friday night’s just-about-capacity audience (and, one trusts, the two additional audiences on Saturday), there was more for the eyes to feast upon. Director Michael Vernon and his behind-the-scenes colleagues — rehearsal director and regisseur Glenda Lucena, ballet master Guoping Wang, children’s ballet mistress Sophia Fatouros, ballet mistresses Marina Eglevsky and Violette Verdy, and coach Phillip Broomhead — had prepared the dozens of dancers to do justice to “The Sleeping Beauty,” a demanding project for the best of professional companies.

These young dancers acquitted themselves with distinction, handling deftly the passed-down and often intricate choreography of Marius Petipa, along with material added by Michael Vernon. In fact, the ballet department over at the Jacobs School appears to be working with such a depth of talent that Vernon decided to cast five ballerinas to share the lead role of Princess Aurora across the weekend’s trio of performances.

On Friday, three of the chosen were on view, different in looks, body types and style, but each fitting and fully capable of handling the assignment: a perky Jordan Martin, pristine of movement in Act 1 as the 16-year-old Aurora who pricks her finger on a rose poisoned by the villainous Carabosse, resulting in a slumber to last a hundred years; Gabriela Johnson, dreamily graceful as the princess upon being awakened by the kiss of her enamored savior, Prince Florimund; Samantha Nagy-Chow, joyously effervescent and buoyant as the Aurora who becomes a bride.

Gregory Tyndall was excellent as Prince Florimund, athletic in solos, an assured partner in duets, lifting and carrying his Auroras with seeming ease and definite flair. Elizabeth Martin portrayed the nasty cast-speller Carabosse with nifty moves and thespian snarl. Carabosse’s opposite in the story, the Lilac Fairy, had a fine interpreter in Caroline Arnold; a benign presence she was.

“The Sleeping Beauty” offers numerous dancers a chance to shine as additional fairies, as cavaliers and princes, as king and queen, as come-to-life colors and jewels, as fairy tale characters like Puss-in-Boots and Red Riding Hood. Those cast in these roles on Friday unstintingly embraced their opportunities, adding dimension to this lavish production. If not everyone was the equal in technique, they and the busy corps had the proper attitude; there was pride in steps and bearing.

So, what about the Tchaikovsky element? The ballet would not exist without his brilliant score, gorgeous, dramatically cogent, and designed so exquisitely for dancing of the highest order. It was very well served by the Concert Orchestra and a wise-to-the-ballet guest conductor, Stuart Chavetz.

 

Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2012

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