English National Ballet
Adela Ramirez as the White Cat and Juan Rodriguez as Puss in Boots in Kenneth MacMillan’s
Photo by Patrick Baldwin, courtesy English National Ballet
English National Ballet
London Coliseum, London, England
January 10, 2006
Reviewed by Margaret Willis
English National Ballet’s latest production of The Sleeping Beauty was three hours of pure joy, and an auspicious beginning to Wayne Eagling’s reign as artistic director.
Sir Kenneth MacMillan created this version (which had never been seen in Britain) in 1987 for American Ballet Theatre. While remaining faithful to Petipa’s original (he relied on Sergeyev’s notated scores), MacMillan choreographed some new dances—the Garland dance in Act 1, Aurora’s variation in the Vision scene, new solos for the Prince, and a pas de cinq for the Jewels. The visually breathtaking production retained Nicholas Georgiadis’ original opulent costumes, while new fairy-tale sets, designed by Peter Farmer, evoked a magical atmosphere.
The first-night dancers were in top form, offering polished technique and good, clear mime. The Fairies danced with precision and vivacity and sprightly nursery-tale characters filled the wedding scene. The two feather-light Bluebirds, Erina Takahashi and Cesar Morales, soared upward, beat beautifully, and landed softly. Georgian Elena Glurdjidze made a graceful and lovingly authoritative Lilac Fairy, while Andre Portasio, with high white forehead and bright red hair à la Elizabeth I, imbued his Carabosse with a sinister yet believable presence.
With Agnes Oaks as Aurora and Thomas Edur as Desire, the excellent production was lavishly sprinkled with fairy-dust. The Estonian husband and wife, who have been performing with ENB since 1990, are considered two of the finest classical dancers in Britain today. Oaks brings a plenitude of pure Russian technique to the stage, retaining refined lines throughout. Her slim, coltish legs unfold to pleasing rather than overextended height, and she offers an expansive port de bras, a filigreed, unrushed technique that shows the delicacy and formation of each step, and a true understanding of musicality. Her first appearance revealed a delightful princess, aware of her regal duties of greeting those around her but unable to hide the excitement of the occasion of her birthday. Her solid balances in the Rose Adage left her cavaliers standing in admiration rather than needing to support her. Edur (returning from a serious injury) is surely one of the world’s most elegant danseurs. A caring, supportive partner, he performed with clarity and softness. The couple added sparkle to the enchanting production. See www.ballet.co.uk.