BY SANDY STAGGS
For its 51st opener, Ballet Spartanburg stages the first of two back-to-back Tchaikovsky ballets this season, “The Sleeping Beauty,” a delightfully regal and grand affair that Chapman Cultural Center audiences will surely behold.
Based entirely on Marius Petipa’s original 1890 choreography, this piece is derived from the Brothers Grimm version with additional characters from Charles Perrault’s other stories. Artistic Director Carlos Agudelo and Ballet Mistress Lona Gomez direct “The Sleeping Beauty.”
Donnie Hodge and Ballet Spartanburg Executive Director Teresa Hough lead this large cast as King Florestan and his Queen (in non-dancing roles) as they welcome the birth of their daughter, Princess Aurora in an opulent celebration.
The prologue is a sumptuous procession of courtiers in key-lime tights (Ballet Spartanburg veteran Will Scott, two new male company additions Brenton Taft and Isaac Martinez Losada and dedicated students Logan Evans, Perry Patterson, John Roche and Luke Umphlett) and maids of honors all danced by students: Hana Brashier, Sofia Carrillo, Aurelia Fendley, Caroline Manke, Anna Patterson, Victoria R. Rodriguez, Cassidy Spring and Sophie Webb.
But it’s the fairies that do they heavy lifting so –to-speak in this section in a succession of demanding routines all in bejeweled Russian-style pancake tutus: veteran Nichola Montt (who dazzled audiences in last season’s “An American in Paris”) as the Breadcrumb Fairy, apprentice Dominique Guerra as the Temperament Fairy, newcomer Charlie Carrouth as the Candor Fairy and student Emily Hodge as the yellow Canary Fairy.
And feeling dissed for not being invite to the royal christening is the evil Carabosse (danced hauntingly by new company member Carrie Petrak in full- Maleficent wig and cloak) who crashes the celebration with her three creepy minion creatures and laces a spell on teenage Aurora (company staple Analay Saiz) cementing her fate to die on her 16th birthday from a needle prick.
But the beautiful Lilac Fairy (the coveted role on this evening was danced by newcomer Grayson Driver) alters the spell and instead sends the princess and the entire kingdom to a peaceful 100-year-nap.
Fast forward a century later as the Lilac Fairy leads the handsome Prince Désiré (Taft on this occasion) who, in this staging’s only peculiar blocking, runs around a full size scrim (twice) to kiss and awaken his sleeping beauty. The kiss beckons a splendid and enchanting pas de deux with Taft and Saiz, who displays exquisite balance and control in her technique.
Slimmed down dramatically from its initial four-hours to a more palatable length, Act III dispels completely with Tchaikovsky’s primary recurring motifs and instead focuses on the marriage court entertainers all culled from Perrault’s most popular fairy tale characters and showcases the supreme talent in the company in three fantastic pas de deux.
Scott as Puss-in-Boots and Petrak as The White Cat presage many of the upper body movements seen some 90 years later in “Cats,” while Losada and Montt perform an extended delicate pairing as Bluebird and Princess Florine.
And Carrouth as Little Red Riding Hood and young Roche (alternating this role with Luke Umphlett) dance a feisty routine with her dainty steps contrasted brilliantly with his majestic masculine leaps.
Of course, no grand ballet would omit the tiny dancers and here appear as the Little Fairies with slightly-older Caroline Manke as their Queen: Rachel Appleby, Sullivan Bailey, Jane Close, Mena Codespoti, Jane Colbath, Lauren C. Conway, Lucy Delaney, Elizabeth Morgan Jarman, Abby Den Jenkins, Olivia Kibbe, Lilla Langley, Wallace Lynch and Sarah Wells.
And in the snow-white procession of Garland Princesses are Caroline Farr, Bethany Grindle, Claire A. Grogan, Sarah Halstead, Madelynn Morgan and Haven Murphy.
The costumes in this production are glorious and majestic in every detail and are on loan from the Columbia City Ballet with additional pieces by Melissa Kimbrell and Maxine Moehlenbrock.
The fabulous lighting is by Spartanburg Little Theatre’s Peter Lamson with Bethany Lancaster on the sound board and Caleb Patterson and James Holmes on stage crew.
“Sleeping Beauty” continues Saturday and Sunday, October 21-22 at 3 p.m. at the Chapman Cultural Center, 200 East St. John Street in Spartanburg. For tickets, visit http://www.chapmanculturalcenter.org.