Princess Aurora will visit Columbia again when the Columbia City Ballet performs “Sleeping Beauty” on March 30 at the Koger Center for the Arts.
The performance will feature the iconic Tchaikovsky score played by the South Carolina Philharmonic. The ballet is adapted from the 1697 Charles Perrault and was first presented at the Marinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on January 15, 1890.
First produced by Columbia City Ballet in 1967, this production marks the 12th time the ballet company has staged this timeless family-friendly tale.
The Columbia City Ballet is performing “Sleeping Beauty” this year in honor of the 201st anniversary of choreographer Marius Petipa’s birth.
Columbia City Ballet executive and artistic director William Starrett says staying true to the original choreography by Petipa while keeping the production innovative and fresh is a challenge.
“There is much in the original staging which is very predictable and obvious, so trying to create mystery from the obvious is incredibly challenging,” he said.
Starrett and principal dancer Claire Richards-Rapp, who dances the lead role of Aurora, shared some thoughts about “The Sleeping Beauty.”
Q. What are the challenges as a director with staging Sleeping Beauty?
Starrett: One challenge for a director is condensing the ballet from its original length of more than four hours, to a length of time acceptable to a modern audience, while protecting the ballet’s artistic integrity. I am very fortunate because I had the technical and artistic assistance of the famed Raisa Struchkova, legendary Prima Ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, in developing the version Columbia audiences will see.
Q. What are the challenges of performing ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in general?
Richards-Rapp: Performing the role of Aurora is very physically demanding. The “Rose Addagio” is among the most technically difficult pieces in the classical repertoire and I feel a tremendous responsibility to that classical tradition. The character of Aurora is very complex, requiring conveying to the audience the innocence of a 16-year-old early in the ballet, and in the dream sequence, a 16-year-old who imagines herself as a mature woman, then finally as a mature woman marrying the prince in the wedding scene.
Q. Is this a good ballet for children?
Starrett: Yes! While the ballet differs from the Disney version, it is full of fairies to delight children. The primary difference in the ballet is that there are six fairies in attendance at Aurora’s christening, all there to endow her with attributes such as beauty and grace. When the malicious fairy, Carabosse, feels she has been slighted, she puts a curse of death on Aurora, prompting the Lilac fairy to step in and modify the curse so that Aurora will not die but only sleep for 100 years.
Q. What makes ‘Sleeping Beauty’ popular more than 100 years after its creation? What makes it spectacular?
Starrett: “Sleeping Beauty” credits the amazing musical score by Tchaikovsky, the complexities of the movements and other technical aspects of the ballet. What makes this production spectacular is the collaboration of South Carolinas two major arts groups, Columbia City Ballet and the South Carolina Philharmonic, performing live. Spectacular really is an apt term to apply to this ballet.
Q. Why should folks come see ‘Sleeping Beauty’?
Starrett: Everyone should see “Sleeping Beauty” because it is a rare opportunity to see these two organizations in a joint performance. This ballet is internationally renowned for its importance in the classical repertoire. Ordinarily you would have to travel to a much larger city in order to see a production meeting these high artistic standards.
If you go
When: 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. March 30
Where: Koger Center for the Arts, 1051 Greene St.
Tickets: $20-$52, www.kogercenterforthearts.com
Notable: A Sleeping Beauty Tea will be held at 1:30 p.m. prior to the matinee performance on March 30. This enchanting children’s event will feature a sit-down tea with cakes, cookies and lots of surprises including appearances by Sleeping Beauty and her prince as well as other characters from the ballet. Children will be able to participate in activities and have their picture taken with the Columbia City Ballet stars. Tea party tickets are $30 a person and can be purchased by calling 803-799-7605.