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Dancing with a dreamlike quality
Seattle Times arts critic
A transformation takes place in Pacific Northwest Ballet's exquisite fairy-tale ballet "The Sleeping Beauty," and it isn't just from sleep to wakefulness — it's a character who begins the ballet a very young girl and ends it as a woman. This requires two very different kinds of dancing, and on opening night Kaori Nakamura demonstrated both beautifully.
In Act 1, as the teenage Princess Aurora bursts forth onto her birthday party, Nakamura was all lightness; seemingly dancing somewhere above the floor, in a happy cloud. Her solo work had a fresh, tossed-off quality, as if Aurora is showing off a bit for the cavaliers she knows are watching. When she danced with them in the famous Rose Adagio, the character work stayed strong despite the technical demands of the choreography: After a beautifully deep arabesque, she tossed her partner a coquettish little smile.
At the end of the ballet, dancing the grand pas de deux, Aurora has awakened from her long sleep and is grown up, dancing at her wedding to the prince (Olivier Wevers) who woke her with a kiss. Here, Nakamura's movements were bold and sure, reflecting the character's new confidence. In a pose that mirrored those in the Rose Adagio, time seemed to stand still for an instant as she balanced gracefully on one pointe shoe, arms reaching high. The prince's hand was there for support, but for a magical moment she didn't need it; this Aurora could stand on her own.
Ronald Hynd's version of "The Sleeping Beauty" — choreographed in the grand, presentational style of the 19th-century master Marius Petipa — is being staged for the third time at PNB since its 2001 debut, and it's still a knockout. Peter Docherty's sets and costumes sparkle, with the palace wreathed in lacy vines like a present tied with ribbons. And in a season that's seen the company gently — and triumphantly — expanding into a more contemporary repertoire, it's a pleasure to see this classic performed so well.
Thursday night, McCaw Hall, Seattle Center
Wevers demonstrated impeccable partnering: attentive (even seamlessly picking up an errant earring) but never overwhelming. The prince is a rather thankless role, with few moments to shine, but Wevers performed his Act 3 solos with verve and a certain deference, as if it wouldn't be quite gentlemanly to outshine his lovely partner.
As the Lilac Fairy, whose delicate wand works magic, Carrie Imler showed precise pointe work and a remote, ethereal quality. At the end of Act 2, when her intervention brought the prince and princess together, this fairy allowed herself a small, satisfied smile: Her work is done.
"The Sleeping Beauty," 7:30 tonight and April 20-22, 1 p.m. today, Sunday and April 22-23, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $20-$134 (206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org).
Jonathan Porretta seemed to hang in the air — quite appropriately — in the bluebird pas de deux, ably matched with the charming, quicksilver Jodie Thomas. And hidden behind a wolf mask for a dance with Red Riding Hood (Chalnessa Eames), Karel Cruz demonstrated a wonderfully high jump and some genuine comic timing.
The opening-night audience cheered Nakamura and the cast with a standing ovation, a fitting reward for a princess who danced like a dream.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2783
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company