A sunny Sleeping Beauty from Ballet Theatre UK

Concordia Theatre, Hinckley
December 9, 2018

David Mead

The Sleeping Beauty, it is often said, is the ballet by which a company is measured. It is the pinnacle of classical dance. If that is true, then Ballet Theatre UK are in pretty good shape, for their bright and often sunny production, making a reappearance after a six-year break, makes for a very enjoyable couple of hours indeed.

Moore has taken the opportunity to restage some sections to take advantage of the company’s increase in dancers since its last outings. What has also improved enormously in that time is the standard of the company’s dancing with plenty of clean turns and leaps and barely a wobbly landing in sight.

Anna Yliaho is a charming Aurora, every inch the young princess she is supposed to be. She has a pleasing line and nicely expressive face. I would have liked to have seen longer balances in the Rose Adagio (tricky even with the best of suitors), but she was strong and secure in the Grand pas de deux.

Oliver Cooper makes for an excellent Prince Florimund. The Concordia stage is not exactly huge but even with space at a premium and a few things clearly reined in, he managed to make it all look good. His partnering is excellent but the highlight came during a particularly impressive series of double tours in the big pas de deux.

Carabosse is most often portrayed as something of an old crone. Moore takes a different tack, preferring to see her as simply another fairy, albeit one who is decidedly miffed about being left off the guest list for Aurora’s big birthday bash. It’s an approach that suits his company of young dancers perfectly, as well as allowing him to turn it into very much a dancing role and a true opposite of the Lilac Fairy. In her black tutu, Erin Flaherty cut a striking figure with her calculated steely smile, and that was before she started on the razor-sharp technique and shooting laser-like looks at all and sundry. Her two minions are not remotely scary and add little, though.

Carabosse in Ballet Theatre UK's The Sleeping BeautyPhoto courtesy Ballet Theatre UK
Carabosse in Ballet Theatre UK’s The Sleeping Beauty
Photo courtesy Ballet Theatre UK

The evil, if good-looking fairy also puts in an appearance in the vision of Aurora that’s conjured up by the Lilac Fairy for the Prince. She prowls menacingly in the background as Aurora and the Florimund dance together in a foretaste of what is to come. It’s one of many moments in the ballet that are rather well done. It would be nice if Aurora’s settling down prior to the big kiss on a truck that is very obviously and unceremoniously wheeled on, could be hidden, though.

The birthday party dances for the fairies were neatly done if a little underpowered, the exception being Jade Cawthraw as the fourth, Red Fairy, who was as spicy and fired up as her scarlet tutu. Ester Cameron’s Lilac Fairy has less dancing but does have presence, and is always there to guide and ensure all ends happily ever after.

The wedding divertissements feel rather cheerier than is sometimes the case. Maybe it’s because they are more suited to younger dancers, especially Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. The ensemble dances have plenty of spirit and attack too.

Daniel Hope’s costumes leap out at you wherever you look. The corps are bedecked in towering wigs that became fashionable towards the end eighteenth-century. They also have the effect of making Aurora look childlike in comparison, exactly as should be. At Aurora’s birthday party, the corps women look stunning in beautifully summery blue dresses, their hair topped off with delightful ‘floating hats’ that were common in the era. By the wedding, they’ve switched to gorgeous gowns in ivory and beige that would do credit to any much larger and more well-endowed ensemble. It is a shame that it’s all told against the same backdrop a balcony with a children’s book palace in the background, but as a generic outlook, it works fine.

Pared down to around 2 hours 10 minutes, Ballet Theatre UK’s Sleeping Beauty trips along nicely. Even the youngest children in the audience were enthralled. As a Christmas treat that’s a change from the usual Nutcracker, it works for me too.

There were no production pictures available at the time of publication, but we’ll be running a ‘picture special’ when they become available around the turn of the year.

Ballet Theatre UK’s The Sleeping Beauty can be seen over Christmas at the Watford Colosseum (December 22 & 23); Guildhall, Portsmouth (December 27); and Brighton Dome (December 29 and 30).

Ballet Theatre is also touring Beauty and the Beast. For all dates and venues, visit www.ballettheatreuk.com.