Before each performance, artistic director Adam Sklute customarily steps in front of the curtain and introduces Ballet West to the Salt Lake audience as “your ballet company.” The sense of pride and shared ownership seemed especially heightened on opening night for Sklute’s 20th-century adaptation of Marius Petipa’s 1890 Russian classic, “Sleeping Beauty.”
Sklute is not a choreographer, but his ability to pull out and highlight moments of brilliance make it feel as if you’re seeing the classic for the first time. Taken together, these big and small illuminations create a highly entertaining yet artistic adaptation.
Choreographic elements from the Rose Adagio in Act I are echoed in the wedding pas de deux in Act III. Sklute elucidates the young flirtatious princess in Act I, who rejects her four suitors by touching and withdrawing her hand from theirs one at a time. In Act III, the choreography for the now-mature Princess Aurora and Prince Desire mirrors that same movement, but when they touch, their hands hold fast, a sign they truly fit together.
Principal dancer Rex Tilton is a convincing Prince Desire. In a 2010 Tribune review of Tilton’s debut as Prince Siegfried in “Swan Lake,” I dubbed him Ballet West’s first “rock star” dancer because of his tousled hair and brooding good looks. But Tilton is more than that. He is a strong partner who consciously reflects his ballerina’s line, lightly holds his hands just outside her waist guiding her pirouettes, and sweeps her off her leg and forward into a fish lift with expert timing. He is also a credible actor; when he looked into Aurora’s eyes in Act II, she no longer seemed to be a dream, because his longing for her was immediate and real.
The onstage rapport between Tilton and principal dancer Christiana Bennett as Princess Aurora is intimate, regal and playful. They share a similar movement quality and gather energy from one another. Bennett is an elegant dancer, and her characteristic strength has found an inner softness this season. Her dancing became more confident in Acts II and III, although in the Rose Adagio her pirouette into a complete upper-body drop over and return to center was big and inspired.
It is refreshing that Sklute encourages individuality in dancers’ interpretations, and “Sleeping Beauty” is the perfect vehicle for that. Dancer Allison DeBona created a fabulously evil and paranoid Jealous Fairy in Carabosse, bordering on a sociopath. And although the children in the performance are well disciplined and rehearsed, they are still allowed to be children.
The cast is strong, with all four of the Lilac Fairy Attendants making their mark. The Fairy of Kindness, Katlyn Addison, was lively, and her Cavalier, Chase O’Connell, has a handsome line and nicely arched feet.
The Fairy of Temperament, Emily Adams, has elegance in her upper-body carriage that was not evident a year ago. Dancer Amy Potter as The White Cat nailed the aloof nature of a cat, and her counterpart, Alexander MacFarland as Puss in Boots, was appropriately foiled.
The Bluebird pas de deux danced by Christopher Sellars and Katherine Lawrence had a costume malfunction, and recovering from that is a tall order for any dancer. But I wonder if there is a male dancer currently in the company who is small enough with the fast twitch muscle to accurately portray a bird. It takes all sizes to make a company.
Soloist Adrian Fry and principal dancer Katherine Lawrence will perform the lead roles on Feb. 14 at 7:30 For complete casting list see: www.balletwest.org/Performances/TheSleepingBeauty.
“The Sleeping Beauty”
R A beautiful rendition of one of the most technically difficult of the Russian classical ballets.
When • Feb. 12-15 at 7:30 p.m.; 2 p.m. matinees Feb. 15-16
Where • Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City
Running time • Two and one-half hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
Tickets • $29-$80; at arttix.org, 801-355-ARTS or at the box office. Discounts for groups of 15 or more by calling Ballet West, 801-869-6900.
For more information • www.balletwest.org/Performances/TheSleepingBeauty