Sleeping Beauty: Ballet Quad Cities and Orchestra Iowa in Full Bloom
You know that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you forget to invite someone important to your party? Chances are you feel guilty about it for a bit before getting on with your life. But what if you and your spouse were the King and Queen, and the event you were hosting was the christening of your newborn and long-desired daughter, Rose? And what if the person you mistakenly left off the guest was the evil fairy, Carabosse, a woman who seeks retribution for your slight by placing a curse on Rose that mandates that one day she will die from a prick to the finger caused by a rose’s thorn? This is the conflict at the heart of Ballet Quad Cities and Orchestra Iowa’s production of The Sleeping Beauty, which ran at the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids on April 11 and 12.
The audience consisted of a plethora of princesses, all adorned in tiaras, wands, and sparkly dresses — a fair match for the costumed ballerinas on stage. A flood of tittering and gasps spilled out as the curtain opened and revealed the dancers poised in celebration of baby Rose’s christening. Flower bouquets and wreathes were held high, as the King and the Queen cradled their daughter. The backdrop was an enormous painting of the Castle’s hall, complete with a chandelier and tall windows. The movements were light and jubilant, until the guests realized that the evil fairy was mistakenly forgotten. Then the movements became more exaggerated, conveying confusion and distress, and culminated in party guest Alec Roth waving his arms in the air and shaking guests by their shoulders. Enter the evil fairy, Carabosse, danced by Marie Buser, with her arms contorted over her head as if to form a horned headdress and dressed in black, witch-like tulle. The epitome of all that is aquiline, Buser was all razor-sharp angles, portraying an ominous force about to be unleashed. Carabosse cursed the child with spikey movements and malicious eyes, and dashed off stage as the Good Fairy of the Forest, danced by Jill Schwartz, soothed the child and softened the impending curse to slumber rather than death. The Queen, danced by Meredith Green, and the Good Fairy take baby Rose to a house in the woods to try to protect her from the curse. The set shifts to another large painted backdrop of a wooden interior with heavy beams. Baby Rose leaves the stage and when she re-enters, time has passed and she is a young girl, danced by Sarah McVey, with innocent and delicate movements, mixed with a bit of shyness. Another exit and Rose has grown yet again, this time into a young woman, danced by Emily Kate Long, every bit as elegant as a princess should be. Long appeared almost fragile and gauzy, unaware yet completely susceptible to the curse. The scene shifts to a meadow where Rose meets the Prince, danced by Patrick Green, and they are immediately enraptured with each other, as evidenced by the near-constant connectedness of their dancing, their flawless lifts, and the tenderness in their mirrored movements. As the Prince leaves Rose, he promises to return to her again. Carabosse then enters the meadow and crookedly tempts Rose into pricking her finger on a rose and triggering the curse.
I won’t giveaway the ending, but there were lots of concerned princesses in the audience who were hoping that Princess Rose would awake and return to the Prince and have her happily ever after. Ballet Quad Cities’ rendition of The Sleeping Beauty, was delightful and elegant. Artistic Director Courtney Lyon’s choreography deeply enhanced the efficacy of the plot and furthered the heightened emotions as the story unfolded. Special note should also be given to Marie Buser as the evil Fairy Carabosse, whose knife-sharp movements and thorny disposition rooted the authenticity of her character to each development of the story.
Orchestra Iowa marvelously performed Tchaikovsky’s score, which utilizes shifts in the melody to emphasize important narrative turns. It’s Tchaikovsky’s use of dynamics that underscores the plot, while also complementing the emotions that the dancers on stage are conveying. At the ballet’s beginning, when all is going swimmingly for the King and Queen, the score was light, and punctuated by emphatic blasts. However, the score becomes more frenetic as Carabosse arrives and the members of the party struggle to figure out how such a costly mistake cold have been made. Similarly, the second act opened on a hunting party pausing to rest in a clearing. The music was upbeat and rhythmically it evoked almost the same party atmosphere as an Irish jig. As in the first act, that jubilance was short-lived, as the arrival of Carabosse on the stage signaled a darker melodic shift.The Sleeping Beauty, Ballet Quad Cities and Orchestra Iowa — a perfect marriage for this blossoming spring.