Ballet classics stories

Ballet classics – Sleeping Beauty

Everyone is so familiar with the story of Sleeping Beauty, with thanks to the Disney version. The ballet version is based on the tale from The brothers Grimm, and has slight differences.

The music was written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  and first performed in 1890, originally called ‘The Sleeping princess’.  King Florestan and the QUEEN are celebrating the christening of their daughter PRINCESS AURORA.  Among the guests are 6 magical fairies (the names of the fairies change from production to production) with the most important one being the LILAC FAIRY.  They each give a gift, but as the Lilac fairy goes to give hers, the evil fairy CARABOSSE arrives, angry at not being invited. The King blames his Master of ceremonies, who Carabosse beats with her stick before placing a curse on the baby, on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spindle and die! The lilac fairy intervenes, and although unable to undo the curse, she is able to alter it, so that the Princess falls into a sleep for 100 years to be woken by a kiss from a prince. Everyone is out at ease and the festivities continue.

Aurora’s birthday arrives and there’s lots of dancing and potential suitors for her to meet! A cloaked stranger offers her a gift, a spindle, and as she has never seen one, she’s curious and takes a closer look. She pricks her finger and falls to the floor. Carabosse reveals herself from under the cape and is satisfied she is dead. The Princess is carried off to bed and the Lilac fairy goes about putting a spell over the castle and it’s people to also put them in a deep sleep, only to awake when the Princess does.

Fast forward 100 years and we meet  PRINCE DÉSIRÈ out in a hunting trip. The Lilac fairy appears to him, having chosen him to awake Aurora, and takes him to the castle. Carabosse has one last attempt at stopping them, but fails. The prince finds Aurora, kisses her and she wakes, as do the rest of the people. The King and Queen are ecstatic with the Prince, and he proposes to Aurora, which she accepts.
The final act is the wedding. The Lilac fairy, along with the other fairies and some recognisable guests from other fairy tales are in attendance. The prince and princess are wed with the Lilac fairy blessing the union. Then all the guests gather and create a tableau to end the ballet.

Did you know that Walt Disney actually bought some of the rights to the music from Sleeping Beauty, which is why some of it appears in the film. Some people claim that fact inhibits some productions of the ballet due to copyright laws.

Sleeping Beauty was always my favourite story growing up. I think it’s that love can overcome evil. I have yet to see this in production, but it’s down on my list!
Alicia 💗

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ballet · Dance · Pointe

Ballet classics – La Sylphide

Jurgita Dronina and Harrison James dance in La Sylphide. (ALEKSANDAR ANTONJEVIC

Here we have another story of magical beings, love, betrayal and star crossed lovers. Spot a theme?!

La Sylphide is actually one of the oldest surviving ballets, dating back to 1832! The version we live and know today was choreographed by August Bournonville in 1836.

It’s set in bonny Scotland around a man named JAMES and his fiancé Effie on the lead up to their wedding in a country farmhouse. 

One night, James falls asleep by the fire, a SYLPH (a forest spirit) falls in love with him, dances around him and eventually kisses him. As he wakes up, she disappears. James wakes his friend GURN, who doesn’t know anything about the Sylph. James puts it behind him and thinks about his upcoming wedding.

As Effie and her bridal party arrive, James goes out to greet them but sees a shadow behind them. He runs over, thinking it is the Sylph, but instead he finds OLD MADGE, a local witch. James is disappointed. Effie asks the witch to read their fortune. She tells her that James is in love with someone else and that Effie will end up with Gurn. James is angry and forces Old Madge to leave.

James is alone and the Sylph appears to him again. He is totally captivated by her and they kiss. Gurn sees all this and runs to tell Effie. But when everyone arrives in the room to see what’s going on, the Sylph has disappeared and they think Gurn has made it up out of jealousy. Festivities and dancing break out. The Sylph returns and takes the wedding ring off James, putting it on her own finger and running off into the forest. James immediately follows leaving Effie heartbroken.

The Sylph introduces James to her forest friends and they dance for him. Meanwhile the other guests have followed into the forest looking for James. Gurn finds his hat, and comes across Old Madge. She tells him to propose to Effie, which he does and she accepts, then they leave. James returns and Old Madge gives h a magic scarf. She tells him it will bind the Sylph to him forever and they can be together.

Reunited with the Sylph, he loves the scarf around her, her wings fall off, but she then dies. He sees her spirit above him and collapses. Madge is happy with the results.

Another ballet from the romantic era, so expect dreamy long tulle skirted tutus, lots of Georgia and elevation in allegro sections, and gorgeous little freeze frame moments. A good dash of Scottish dancing, bagpipes and kilts make it a much more colourful affair! But I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of these endings, I’m a typical ‘happily ever after’ kind of girl. Maybe I’ll start re writing my own endings!

Alicia 💗