News: American Ballet Theatre takes Sleeping Beauty back to basics

Friday 6 March 2015 by Clare Evans

ABT - 'Sleeping Beauty'

American Ballet Theatre’s latest production of Sleeping Beauty is closer to the original 1890 choreography than any other contemporary production, according to Alexei Ratmansky, who has taken up the challenge of reinterpreting Marius Petipa’s classic, a stalwart in ABT’s repertoire for decades.

He’s done so by deciphering the notation used by ballet master Nicholas Sergeyev to record the original Sleeping Beauty in 1903. Although Ratmansky is one of the few choreographers alive who can even read this notation, it took him and his wife Tatiana months to decipher the musical notes and “squiggled hieroglyphics.

“(it was) like playing detective or like deciphering a lost language. It’s so sketchy in places but always so complex. You have to use all your knowledge to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together.”

The classic choreography is remarkably different to its modern counterparts, with far more emphasis on intricate details than big lifts.

Ratmansky admits that it has been quite difficult for ABT’s dancers; even if the movement is less athletic than most of the works they perform, it still requires “incredible stamina”. There are far fewer of the “natural breaks” between variations, or even within phrases, which normally allow the dancers to take breath. And for many of the cast a real effort of concentration is involved in over-writing the memories of other productions of Beauty they’ve previously performed.

Diana Vishneva, who is Ratmansky’s first-cast Aurora, reckons she’s danced at least six different productions of Beauty during the course of her career, but that stylistically “this is by far the most challenging. When you are used to taking your leg to a certain height in arabesque or passé or to having more amplitude in the arms, it is very difficult to adapt.”

ABT dancers share their thoughts on Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky:

Read more: The Guardian, 3 March 2015

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