Ballet company brings McCain season to delightful end

By Gary Clift

The Moscow Festival Ballet, a company founded by Bolshoi principal Sergei Radchenko twenty years ago, appeared in K-State’s McCain Auditorium last Sunday afternoon. Performing Petipa’s standard choreography, they gave us a “Sleeping Beauty” that was both a delight and a nice end to the 2011-12 auditorium series.

McCain’s patrons have seen MFB before, just a couple of years back. And this relatively large dance company—the publicity claims fifty members—gave us another well-rehearsed classic with good costumes and scenery, and athletic and highly-disciplined dancers.

Oh, the women were a little better than the men in a couple of cases (for example, the Bluebird duo) and we had to do with recorded versions of the Tchaikovsky music. But this “Sleeping Beauty” was a solid professional show—sometimes gasp-provoking, sometimes delightful—which did full justice to the especially famous ballet based on the French version of the story.

The entertainment opened with a court reception for the infant Princess Aurora. After a certain amount of promenading and baby-displaying along beside tall, cross-hatched gothic windows, the company settled in to watch solo and small group welcoming dances carried out by the Lilac Fairy and a small corps of purple-clad ballerinas, as well as by soloists blue, orange, white, yellow, and blood red.

Then the lighting came down and the dancer playing the evil fairy Carabosse came on, accompanied by her small pack of ugly animals. With the characteristic side-to-side, cane assisted movement, she swept across the stage, eventually cursing the baby to prick her finger and die on her sixteenth birthday.

But the Lilac Fairy and her familiars stepped in to alter the effects of the curse. Princess Aurora would sleep for a hundred years to be awakened by the kiss of a prince. And then, after some attractive business before the front gates of the palace, we were off to the second scene, the celebration of the princess’s sweet sixteenth. This was apparently a garden party, as the costumes—straw hats and spring green frocks—showed.

We enjoyed the famous waltz, danced with floral arches, probably the most memorable of the tunes in this, the unintentional study piece for the music of “The Nutcracker.” Again Carabosse appeared, offering the princess a bouquet from which she drew a large needle with which, despite the warnings of all dancers in attendance, she pricked herself. She slept. And so, in this version of the story, did all the members of the court.

After the intermission and 100 years, the palace and its grounds were overgrown, and a row of tall arches seemed to overhang the action as a hunting party made up largely of dancing pairs paused. Their leader, the prince, took a couple of runs of turns and leaps before seeing the Lilac Fairy. Then she and a large corps of dancers acted as a maze through which he chased a girl who seemed to be Aurora.

He found her asleep, kissed her, and thus revived the whole court party. The scene ended with a famous duet with a notable catch by the prince of the princess at the end of it. The glowering Carabosse appeared but is this time was turned away by the long-limbed Lilac Fairy. The guests at the wedding dance included three couples from others of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, of which the Red Riding Hood and big jawed Wolf were especially pleasing.

Among the best dancers—unfortunately not identified—were the ones who acted as the Princess (whose lines were always unwaveringly straight), the high-leaping Prince, and the Lilac Fairy. But some of the lesser characters—the Wolf, the Blue and White Fairies, and others, were also especially amusing, accomplished, and strong.

As was the production. And so, remembering that Pilobolus gave a good series performance the Tuesday before, the year’s McCain season ended with fine dancing.

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