When it comes to tradition and an air of homage, no dance company in the world comes quite as close as the American Ballet Theatre. A culmination of the greatest talents from across the world, the company is as diverse as the works they portray, but they never seem to forget their roots. While each dancer may have their own individual cultural background, together as a company the American Ballet Theatre creates a culture and a class all its own. And in the world premiere of their Sleeping Beauty production this week at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the American Ballet Theatre revels in some of the greatest works that history has ever seen, to create a new form of perfection for themselves.
Marking the 23rd appearance of the ABT to Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts, the world premiere of the Sleeping Beauty this week, Mar. 2, stunned audiences with its graceful execution and grandiose scale. Inspired heavily by the original 1890 Imperial Ballet production choreographed by Marius Petipa, historic costumery of Léon Bakst for the 1921 Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and set to the classical music scored by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the ABT reenvisioned the classics with flair and personality while staying true to original vision created more than a century ago. The term “new” may not apply to the company’s Sleeping Beauty production, which is heavily inspired by tradition, but the performances and the production are undoubtedly unlike anything that you’ve ever seen before.
In terms of technical execution, the dancers in the ABT are athletes far beyond what most audiences are used to seeing. Even in the midst of ornate backdrops, a difficult score and even far more difficult choreography, the company as a whole makes the performance look effortless. Though the occasional dancer may move out of syncopation or fall out of an arabesque on pointe, the combined talents of the entire company as a whole far outweigh any single mistake that happens on a given night.
The choreography, put together by ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky and the original works by Marius Petipa, is elegant and clever in that it showcases not only the dancers as individuals, but also the characters as individuals as well. For example, when it comes to the famous dances of the fairies, the choreography showcases different lyricism and dance styles, inspired from different folkloric/classical origins, so that each fairy is given its own distinct persona.
And though the entire company as a whole is impressive, with each of the individual dancers’ talents showcased this week in the revolving lead roles over the ABT’s eight shows in Costa Mesa, in the world premiere there were three dancers that captured the essence of their characters far greater than the rest. With regards to casting, for the opening night no other dancers were better suited than Veronika Part, Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes to claim the lead roles.
As the leader of the fairies, Part’s Lilac Fairy fit her personality and lyricism to a tee. Not only were her lines clean and exact, but her portrayal of the character and of the story itself transcended the mere steps of the choreography. Showcasing her talents as a true artist, Part utilized the story and emotional content of her role to her advantage, and developed a portrayal of the Lilac Fairy suited for the silver screen.
Though her current career has Vishneva’s name known around the world, it’s her performance as Princess Aurora that truly reveals why this brilliant dancer is the princess of the ballet community. Effortless on pointe and silent across the stage, even as she pirouettes with the sole sound of a trilling flute, Vishneva evokes the true grace and poise of royalty. Technically, she is perfection; artistically, she brings everything to the table and more. And though this week she may take the opportunity to play another role, it’s clear as Princess Aurora that in another life Diana Vishneva was true royalty in what surely was a fairytale.
Lastly, of the three, Gomes may be the strongest, as his experience in the familiar role allowed him to surpass the confines of his character. While the role of Prince Désiré limited Gomes’ ability to showcase his every strength, with very little solo work allowing him to shine on his own, in the role of the prince he was able to reveal his greatest achievement in his partner work with Vishneva. Strong, graceful and the epitome of what a partner should be, Marcelo Gomes broke through what audiences thought that the prince should be, and gave them a new standard to hold male dancers to.
“Marcelo Gomes really is a product of the American Ballet Theatre. In fact, his real breakthrough really happened in this theatre” dance historian, Elizabeth Kaye says. “Women love dancing with him because he is such a gracious dancer. Together they make ballet something so much more than mere entertainment.”
Though the company did an extraordinary job opening night, these three dancers won’t be the only ones seen in the iconic roles this week. With eight separate performances, the American Ballet Theatre has opted to share the lead roles amongst other members of the company, and we’re eager to see other primaries step into the spotlight.
For ticket information visit the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ ticket office:
What: The American Ballet Theatre’s “The Sleeping Beauty”
Where: Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: 7:30pm, nightly through Saturday Mar. 7, with additional matinees Saturday at 2pm, Sunday at 1:30 and a closing performance Sunday Mar. 8 at 7pm.
Info: (714) 556-2787; www.scfta.org