Feature: An 'American Beauty' comes home to London

Friday 4 January 2013

It’s not often you get the chance to see two different versions of a ballet classic on London stages at the same time (Nutcrackers apart, that is). If you’ve already seen Matthew Bourne’s version at Sadler’s Wells, Graham Watts suggests you should also get down to the London Coliseum and see English National Ballet’s more traditional version as well…

There are many different interpretations of The Sleeping Beauty in ballet but all share some common advantages: Tchaikovsky’s melodic score; a libretto based upon Perrault’s universally popular fairy tale; and a common inheritance of the original choreography created by Marius Petipa for the ballet’s St Petersburg premiere in January 1890. Even the most recent addition to this growing catalogue, Matthew Bourne’s gothic interpretation now playing at Sadler’s Wells, is closely related to the original.

The version that opens the second half of English National Ballet’s winter season at the London Coliseum next week (Wednesday, 9 January) can lay claim to be the closest descendant of Petipa’s original ballet, since the choreographer – the late Kenneth MacMillan – based his production on the notations smuggled out of Russia at the time of the Revolution by Nikolai Sergeyev, which is also the source from which the Royal Ballet’s version was created. MacMillan remained true to the ‘Sergeyev’ notations, adding just the Garland waltz; variations for both the Prince and Princess Aurora in Act II; the journey by the Lilac Fairy and Prince Desiré to rescue Aurora; and the Jewels divertissement.

MacMillan made this to be the ‘American Beauty’, creating it for American Ballet Theatre in the mid-1980s. It effectively gave the US public their own authentic production since for the previous 40 years they had relied on touring versions, notably from The Royal Ballet. It is the American version that was purchased lock, stock and barrel by ENB in 2005, after 18 years’ in the ABT repertory, thus bringing MacMillan’s traditional, classical vision of The Sleeping Beauty back home.

The ENB can now boast a truly world-class trio in the leading roles for its opening night with ENB’s new “player-manager” Tamara Rojo, dancing as Aurora alongside the company’s new leading principal, Vadim Muntagirov as her Prince and Daria Klimentová as the Lilac Fairy.

Dates, times & booking details

Graham Watts writes for londondance.com, Dance Tabs, Dancing Times and other magazines and websites in Europe, Japan and the USA. He is Chairman of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle in the UK.

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