Butler Ballet presented the beloved Charles Perrault tale of "The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood" as a visually sumptuous 3-D storybook retelling. Throughout, the background groupings of courtiers were picture-perfect, directing full attention to the main action while lending dimension to the busy life in the palace of King Florestan and Queen Sylvie. The two monarchs were portrayed with regal parental delight and concern by guest artist James Cramer and Butler senior Christina Perry.
Every presenting company starts with the original Marius Petipa 1890 production and adds and subtracts from his emphasis on the recurring themes of good and evil in conflict. Tchaikovsky’s music in the Baroque style enters our soul from the startling opening din of the Overture all the way to uplifting "all is well" strains of the Finale. We well know the flow of Act I’s waltz, the perky Mazurka of Act II and the stately processional Polonaise of Act III.
A consortium of Butler faculty members contributed to the choreography. Stephan Laurent’s lyricism and character development mark the Prologue and "The Castle Asleep." The evil Fairy Carabosse is up to no good from the start — evil lurks in all corners, even in seeming fairy tale-perfection. Alexandra Schooling commandingly projected beauty corrupted. Her minions hovered around her venomous spell.
Michelle Quenon countered as a smart-thinking Lilac Fairy, who along with Eileen Frazer, Rachel Schmidt, Renee Roberts and Sarah Kosterman bestowed abundant gifts. But fate is fate in fairy tales, and all the dazzle of Candace Gordon’s joyful Princess Aurora celebrating her 16th birthday with four handsome princes and displays of virtuoso dancing comes to a sudden halt. Cynthia Pratt, Marek Cholewa and Michelle Jarvis choreograph with attention to technique.
From the instant of Ricardo Dyer’s leap into the Hunt scene of Act II we know he not only is a worthy prince in a ballet, but a dancer to be watched as he moves into a career following graduation. His presence and strength are well honed. Patrick Hinson and Jarvis choreographed with attention to one hundred years later.
Derek Reid and Hinson choreograph Act III as pure delight, bringing on a new cast of fairies to assist the enduring Lilac Fairy and parading our other Perrault favorites — Carrie Peterson and Simon Pawlak as playful White Cat and Puss-in-Boots, Marie Harrison and Conner Horak as the airborne Princess Florine and Bluebird, and Cathleen Leszcznski and Roger Wood as Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.
If dazzling new costumes inspire fine dancing, we’ll credit wardrobe, yet it appears this strong company worked hard to achieve a balance of technique and effective story telling. Bravo, brava to the very large company, whose corps work was particularly good.
As always, Richard Auldon Clark conducted with aplomb the excellent Butler Symphony Orchestra. Anthony Bauer’s lighting design was spot on. Kathleen Egan earns costume credit, along with assistance from the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois.