Royal Opera House, London

Dance review: The Sleeping Beauty - The art of growing up gracefully

3.00

A highly intelligent Princess Aurora and dazzling airmanship by her saviour prince give a classic a special lift

If the masses have religion and, latterly, the X Factor, then throughout its 120-year history The Sleeping Beauty could easily be described as the opiate of the elite. Every age, and every great institution, gets the Beauty that it needs to calm its fears and promise it a bright, and, more importantly, a familiar tomorrow.

Tchaikovsky's and Petipa's original St Petersburg production invoked the glories of 17th-century France's Sun King, Louis XIV, to reassure its audience that the Romanov dynasty would endure for the greater good of Russia, notwithstanding glitches such as the fairly recent assassination of Tsar Alexander. The Royal Ballet's post-war production promised an end to austerity and the resumption of an empire on which the sun would never set. And now, riddled with internal power struggles that have seen dancers jailed, the theatre director peremptorily dismissed, and the artistic director of the ballet blinded in an acid attack, the Bolshoi has commissioned a ballet of calm, modesty and very little strife or bite. If only The Sleeping Beauty had a better record as a tipster, the ruling powers at the Bolshoi would have no worries.

Staged by one of the company's own revered ex-tyrants, Yuri Grigorevich, to mark the reopening of the theatre in 2011 after a troubled six-year renovation, this well-mannered Beauty has never before been performed live outside Russia. The first half especially could well perplex audiences used to more oomph from visiting Russian companies. Admittedly the set, by Italian Ezio Frigerio, is an incitement to a ransacking, with its spiralled gilt and alabaster columns, while costume designer Franca Squarciapino has sprinkled more glitter than Liberace and, regrettably, crowned lots of the cast in sad straggles of ostrich feather (the poor old Blue Bird looks like Orville's pensioner mum). But the choreography itself appears almost embarrassed by the excess.

The fairies that bring their gifts to the baby Aurora are positively bashful, with only Anastasia Stashkevich's Playfulness breaking out the sugar-fuelled vivacity of a stage-school prodigy, and Anna Tikhomirova's Audacity giving the sense that she was straining against a leash. Alexei Loparevich's evil Carabosse pours on all the hoop-backed, boo-me-now stalking you could expect, but there are no trap-door tricks or fireworks, and only a puff of dry ice to embellish his pantomime dame villainy.

Ekaterina Krysanova gives the teenage Aurora callow moments – legs that approach their first arabesques like vines groping for a stake, and shoulders that lift from the deep posture demanded by classical technique – so that her progress through the fiendishly difficult Rose Adagio is a genuine blossoming. Not only that, she keeps growing. Many ballerinas, knowing that the Rose Adagio is a keynote test of their skill, have pretty much shown us all they have by the end of it. Krysanova keeps a little development in reserve for the wedding celebrations that mark her true maturity. Even then she appears to be dancing within herself.

In a company as competitive as the Bolshoi, the temptation for the principals must be to make themselves stand out from the chasing pack. Krysanova does not succumb. Rarely is it made so clear that Aurora's steps – which, in ballet, are her personality – are the gifts of the fairies who attended her birth. This is a lovely, subtle characterisation. It's just that, in its lack of flash, and scale, and showmanship, it doesn't feel very Bolshoi.

If Grigorevich's overall approach to the ballet is subdued, he has stamped some of his trademark virility on the often damp character of the prince, helped by the buoyant Artem Ovcharenko, a dancer who seems not so much to jump as to ride invisible swells and breakers in the air. Ovcharenko's performance alone is almost enough to excuse the inconsistencies in the storytelling, like the overgrown castle lurking right behind him even before he has his first vision of Aurora, suggesting that he practically found his princess down the back of a sofa. And there is something creepy about the entire court already wearing new frills and powdered wigs when Aurora awakes, as if someone has been sneaking in and playing dress-up with their doll-like bodies. Still, we shouldn't look to a fairytale opiate for logic. Or for accurate predictions of the Bolshoi's future direction.

Critic's Choice

The Bolshoi Ballet's London season at the Royal Opera House closes with Balanchine's Jewels (Mon and Tues) to music by Faure, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky, and the first UK performances (Fri and Sat) of The Flames of Paris, Vasily Vainonen's French Revolution tale to a score by Boris Asafiev.

 

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments