NYCB’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is an Eye-Opener

By Ryan Mikel, Contributing Writer

In a departure from the New York City Ballet’s neoclassical roots, artistic director Peter Martins staged the famed “Sleeping Beauty” with additional choreography by George Balanchine. With over 100 student and professional dancers, “The Sleeping Beauty” is a paramount live adaptation of the Brothers Grimm’s classic fairy tale.

Martins’ production revolves around Princess Aurora and the ill-fated curse that has been bestowed upon her. In retaliation, Aurora’s fairy godmother, the Lilac Fairy, seeks out Prince Desire to break the spell with a kiss. After awakening, the Prince and Princess wed and are passed down the crown.

In the first act, standouts at baby Aurora’s christening include corps members Gretchen Smith, Sara Adams and Meagan Mann. Smith is intoxicating to watch with her exceptional por de bras — long arms and lively fingers. Adams, the Fairy of Vivacity, was vivacious indeed, shooting from the wings like a cannon. Lastly, Mann danced the most recognizable variation, the Fairy of Courage, with impressive speed and exactitude. However, of the six fairies, Sara Mearns as the Lilac Fairy stole the show.

Shimmering in black sequins with a pale face and red lips, Maria Kowroski made a fiery entrance as the wicked fairy Carabosse. Both Kowroski and Mearns were excellent with their character work, carrying the narrative through their seasoned miming.

Opening the next section, Balanchine’s “Garland Dance” was a sight to see. The crowded stage featured students in pink and professionals in mustard snaking in and out of tricky formations, all the while garlands of roses were held overhead, mesmerizing the audience.

At “Garland Dance’s” end, Aurora made her highly anticipated entrance. Ashley Bouder, with her near-perfect technique and choreographic execution, played with the choreography by holding balances into the next phrase and speeding up the in-between steps. Bouder received thunderous applause for her multitude of arabesques en pointe that she seemed to hold for eternity.

Inevitably, Carabosse’s curse becomes reality and Aurora collapses on stage right. As Act II opens, Prince Desire fulfills his prophecy and a wedding celebration ensues with a guest list of storybook characters.

Highlights of the celebration include the comedic Puss in Boots (Taylor Stanley) and White Cat (Sarah Villwock). The court jesters, led by Daniel Ulbricht, were a crowd favorite with their fast paced routine of toe touches and turns.  Erica Pereira and Anthony Huxley as Princess Florine and the Blue Bird dominated the stage with challenging brise voles and dizzying turns.

The evening culminated with Bouder and Veyette’s wedding pas de deux. Featuring Aurora’s famous pirouettes into a fish dive, Bouder and Veyette were at the top of their game. During the coda, Veyette executed a menage of coupe jetes and double tours en l’air, with Bouder matching his energy with equally as challenging choreography.

“The Sleeping Beauty” ran at the David H. Koch Theater through Feb. 9.

Email Ryan Mikel at


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