Angel Corella's new reworking of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov classic story ballet The Sleeping Beauty is a glittering gem of crisp dancing, familiar music, and stunning tutus, tiaras, and singlets.
Though it's a beloved fairy tale, it might be a difficult outing for a small child.
The Pennsylvania Ballet premiere Thursday night at the Academy of Music ran nearly three hours, with a prologue, three acts, two intermissions, and a long pause between the second and third acts. Aurora, charmingly danced by Oksana Maslova, does not even show up until an hour into the ballet.
Nearly the entire first hour is prologue, introducing the royal baby to the court and the invited fairies, each of whom dances a variation and presents a gift. Particularly notable were the Lilac Fairy, a take-charge fairy godmother of sorts danced by Dayesi Torriente; Yuka Iseda's Fairy of Generosity, with soft, precise footwork; and Ana Calderon's fluttering and good humored Fairy of Eloquence.
But the vengeful Carabosse, of course, is not invited to the celebration. As danced Thursday by ballet master Samantha Dunster, she blew onto the scene with fire and fury like the world has never seen. And then she cast her spell for Aurora to one day be pricked by a spindle, fall into a deep sleep, and so forth.
When Maslova appears as Aurora at her 16th birthday party, all seems swell. Her friends dance the famous Garland Dance, and Aurora pirouettes with many princes.
Maslova is a delightful Aurora, petite and girlish. Small errors, such as balance checks when she moves from partner to partner, only add to her believability as a young girl. Her legs can stretch past her ears, but never in a forced way, and her acting is spot-on.
The men's dancing has improved in recent years, and the rows of princes and cavaliers were more synchronized than in the past, cleanly completing three or four pirouettes. That said, the sheer number of fairies, court, and friends often made the stage seem too small for the lushness of the dancing, with little room for the dancers to promenade.
Carabosse soon stops by with a gift — the fated spindle — and Aurora falls into her big sleep. Corella's Sleeping Beauty, based on the classic Petipa/Ivanov choreography, keeps the snoozing Aurora dancing, in a vision that comes to Prince Desiré. He was danced opening night by the regal Sterling Baca, appearing at about the halfway mark through the ballet.
Baca's partnering was nimble, and his dancing generally strong, although some of the artistry was compromised for tricks. His double air turns were mostly cheated, partially rotated before he left the ground. In some other noteworthy men's performances, Jermel Johnson — an explosive jumper and turner — gave a refined performance as Gold, and Aleksey Babayev did double duty as a prince and the Bluebird.
In the vision sequence, Aurora flits and floats throughout an assembly of nymphs — a stunningly lush corps de ballet scene — and the prince is hooked. He finds the real Aurora in her bed, delivers a kiss, and breaks the spell.
Sleeping Beauty wraps up with the classic wedding scene, and what a wedding it is, with guests that include Puss 'n Boots and the White Cat, Red Riding Hood and her big, bad plus-one, and friends from other fairy tales.
Sleeping Beauty is one of the most beautiful the Pennsylvania Ballet has recently performed. But, although it offers a huge night of great dancing, it takes a long time to get into the story for young audiences weaned on Disney.
Pennsylvania Ballet performs Angel Corella's new vision of the classic story ballet through Oct. 22 at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St.