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Ballet preview: Sleeping Beauty

Tchaikovsky's legendary ballet returns to the National Theater

Posted: March 28, 2012

By Johana Mücková - For the Post | Comments (1) | Post comment

Ballet preview: Sleeping Beauty

Courtesy Photo

Sleeping Beauty gets a makeover from Javier Torres.

One of the fixed stars of the classical ballet repertoire, The Sleeping Beauty, is returning to the National Theater.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's legendary work has always fired up the imagination of choreographers; since its premiere at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg in 1890 in Marius Petipa's choreography, it has undergone many changes in both dramatic and choreographic conceptions, yet its popularity continues to grow. Nowadays, The Sleeping Beauty is one of the most frequently performed classical ballet pieces in the world besides Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

The famous fairytale about a girl who pricks her finger on a thorn and falls asleep for 100 years has also become a popular ballet subject in the Czech Republic. Over the past decade, the National Theater has staged several versions. The newest, which is premiering now, was created by Javier Torres, a Mexican choreographer and longtime Finnish National Ballet dancer who now works as a visiting teacher and choreographer for professional companies, including the Stuttgart Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater and the Lyon National Opera Ballet.

The new production is based on the fairytale about Princess Aurora and on Petipa's classic choreography, but Torres wasn't bound by the original music and libretto. Instead, he brings a new interpretation that combines the original form of the ballet with contemporary production capabilities.

The Sleeping Beauty
When: Thursday, March 29, at 19 (Czech premiere)
Where: National Theater
Tickets: 30-1050 Kč, available at National Theater box offices or at

"I wanted to create a new version of the classic Sleeping Beauty by maintaining everything I consider to be the best in Petipa's choreography and Tchaikovsky's music, and adapting it to contemporary viewers and also young audiences," Torres tells The Prague Post. "From the original version, I basically cut nearly two hours, and I reinforced the dramaturgy of the ballet by highlighting some characters and omitting others. I also added a little more humor. And from a philosophical point of view, I conceived the story as a struggle of love against fear, unlike the usual concept of a struggle between good and evil."

In Torres' version, the actual drama takes place within the mind and heart of the main character, Princess Aurora. All other characters in the story appear as personifications of her inner emotions: The Lilac Fairy is the Fairy of Love, and Carabosse is the Witch of Fear. It's up to Aurora alone to decide whether she chooses to live in love or in fear. Finally, it takes her 100 years of sleep in fear before she can consciously choose to awake to love.

"From a spiritual point of view, I don't believe we are victims of fate," Torres says. "I believe we ourselves create our lives by any act or thought. So, the story of Aurora and her internal struggle between living in love and living in fear reminds us of a choice we all have. We all take responsibility for shaping our own lives. Either it might be a terrible hell when we choose fear or a beautiful story when we consciously choose love."

Torres' version of Sleeping Beauty was originally created for the Finnish National Ballet in 2008. The Prague version, however, won't be a mere copy of the Finnish one.

"I could hardly make a copy," Torres says. "It's impossible to make a true copy of anything as you can't live the moment you already experienced once again. The only thing possible is to attempt to re-create it. However, since the first meeting with Petr Zuska [Artistic Director of the National Theater Ballet Ensemble] we both agreed some things should be changed. And why not try to improve something when it's possible? But it's like ping pong: a serve and a return. If I don't give the dancers enough, they wouldn't return much either. But in the case of the Prague company, I think we play a good game, very balanced. After several weeks working with the local dancers, I proceeded to make slight changes in choreography that reflect their true talent."

This new ballet should offer entertainment for the whole family. It comprises the artistry of technically difficult dancing, evokes a fairytale atmosphere with a sensitive dash of hyperbole and humor for children as well as adults and brings a contemplation of good and evil within the context of love and fear, their inseparable duality. The Sleeping Beauty has the potential to capture the hearts and mind of young and mature audiences alike.

Johana Mücková can be reached at

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