Left – Kevin Jackson and Amber Scott. Photo – Kate Longley. Cover – Lynette Wills. Photo – Jeff Busby
It was the kind of evening that fairytales are made of. Elegant women in ball gowns, gentlemen in tuxedo’s and a sense of excitement in the air as David McAllister presented his first full length piece and the world premiere of The Australian Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty. In his debut full-length choreographic production, McAllister took The Sleeping Beauty from the pages of a storybook and presented it on the grandest scale imaginable. The carved and painted front set, which stood in place instead of the curtain, gave some insight into the level of craftsmanship the audience were to expect, and were not disappointed. Lavish settings and intricate detailing of every aspect made the production a visual feast before the dancers even stepped on stage.
From the moment Frank Leo as Catalabutte enters, the fun begins. His comedic timing and fabulous expressions make it clear that this is a fresh take on the classic story and that it has the distinctive flair and fun that The Australian Ballet do so well. Amber Scott makes a stunning lilac fairy and her evil counterpart Carabosse, is played majestically by guest artist Lynette Wills. The two characters face off throughout the performance and are perfectly matched in the balance of good and evil.
Principal artist Lana Jones is faultless as Aurora, perfect in technique and a joy to watch as she plays the role of rebellious teenager with grace and lightness. This is not Aurora as a victim, but as a young girl showing off, being silly and enjoying life. Joined by a cluster of colourful fairies who move with all the grace you would expect, (Amy Harris, Natasha Kusen, Robyn Hendricks, Benedicte Bemet and Miwako Kubota) are a fun and joyful bunch who are a highlight of the production.
Not only are they incredible dancers, but the fairies are complimented by the spectacular creations of costume designer Gabriella Tylesova. In what must be some of the most opulent, dazzling designs ever presented on stage, the fairies are a glittering magical array of light, colour and movement.
Kevin Jackson is Beauty’s Prince, and he is perfectly cast in the role. Jackson is strong and precise in the choreography without becoming stiff, and is able to jump higher off the ground than I am sure is realistically possible.
The Australian Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty is quite possibly the most perfect ballet I have ever witnessed. It is flawless. From the breathtaking imagery of the set, to the stunning costumes, brilliant choreography and genius artists, it cannot be faulted. And with Musical Director Nicolette Fraillon at the helm of Tchaikovsky’s score, the subtle tones and key changes allow the story to move with the grace and style it requires.
David McAllister has taken a childhood classic fairytale, an adored ballet and Tchaikovsky’s romantic score and turned it into a ballet that will be loved for decades to come. It has been two years in the making for The Australian Ballet and 40 years in McAllister’s imagination, and I thank him for sharing this vision with the world.
The Australian Ballet presents
The Sleeping Beauty
Choreography Marius Petipa
Production and additional choreography David McAllister
Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: 15 – 26 September 2015