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Sleeping Beauty updated, but with a nod to tradition

Saniya Abilmajineva, as Aurora, will feel the struggle between good and evil in Ballet Jorgen’s production of Sleeping Beauty at the Dunfield Theatre on Oct. 4.[Submitted]
Saniya Abilmajineva, as Aurora, will feel the struggle between good and evil in Ballet Jorgen’s production of Sleeping Beauty at the Dunfield Theatre on Oct. 4. [Submitted]
Aurora and her beloved prince hit the stage this fall in Ballet Jörgen’s world premiere tour of Sleeping Beauty at the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge.

Hosted by Drayton Entertainment, there will be two performances of this all ages event on October 4.

Clea Iveson, education manager for Canada’s Ballet Jörgen, says they’re hoping people who enjoyed their production of Cinderella last year will return to see their rendition of Sleeping Beauty, which unlike Cinderella, is something they’ve never done before.

“It’s a ballet that [artistic director] Bengt Jörgen really wanted to create anew as part of the company’s tradition and commitment to making ballet relevant, and drawing upon the classic history and the tradition, but bringing it into the contemporary time that we live in now, honoring both worlds and bringing that to be in a beautiful ballet, like Sleeping Beauty,” Iveson said.

Traditionally set in court, Ballet Jörgen’s production instead plays out in a magical, mystical place. Iveson refers to it as a proverbial garden of Eden. She says work on the ballet began almost two years ago, with costume and set designers working together to make sure the costumes match the environment.

“We are using the traditional music, so Tchaikovsky’s score, it has been clearly written already,” Iveson said. “We will be editing it because it was written as a three-hour ballet and audiences in this day and age are not looking to be in the theatre for that long. That’s part of bringing it up to date.”

Despite shortening the ballet, she says they’re not leaving anything crucial out of show. Rather, they’re tightening it to have more impact and more dramatic storytelling. This is possible by cutting out the “fluff” of the ballet. This means the crew have been working extra hard, ensuring music edits are carefully structured to flow with the movement of the dancers.

While there’s plenty of fairies and flowers, at the root of the story is the traditional struggle of good versus evil, seen through the Lilac Fairy and Carabosse.

“One of the fundamental concepts in terms of characterization in this production is the concept of the rose and the thorn, where the main character Aurora is a budding rose that has to deal with the fact that she has thorns, as well as being a beautiful rose. That’s where you’re going to see the tug and pull of good and evil. It also ties in with a sense of nature and spring and blossoming, and then the dying off in winter,” Iveson explained.

In Jorgen’s interpretation, Aurora will represent nature, with the wicked fairy (Caraboose) as winter, until a young man, as spring, lets the sun awaken Aurora.

They’re maintaining the classical component of the ballet, by honoring Marius Petipa’s original choreography of the ballet from 1890. Iveson says this means there are plenty of challenging technical aspects for the dancers.

“Plot-wise there will certainly be some points where establishing the plot of the story is important and some gesture, dance, would carry its weight when it comes to basic plot advancement. It’s a little bit more like mime, but where gesture means something more specific in terms of something that’s happening,” Iveson said.

For someone who’s never seen a ballet, Iveson says it’s hard to put into words how the story is told, because there are no words. It comes down to the combination of the dancing and music. Petipa’s other famous choreography works include The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and Swan Lake.

“Really when you put all the pieces together, the heart of the story is communicated by the movement of the dancers and how they move, the relationships that they dance with both their environment and each other. It will create a feeling that carries the story in terms of its impact on your heart from beginning to end,” Iveson said.

She hopes audiences will get wrapped up in the story and that they’re able to create a magical environment for the whole family.

“I think stepping out of it it’s going to have people reflecting on that duality of the good and the evil that’s in all of us and that we have to function with us in life,” Iveson said.

Ballet Jörgen presents Sleeping Beauty at the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge on Oct. 4. Show times are 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for youth under 20 years old. Tickets can be purchased at www.dunfieldtheatrecambridge.com, in person at the Dunfield Theatre Cambridge box office, or by calling (519) 621-8000 or toll free 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).

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