There I was: 21-years-old, a senior in university, a responsible adult living away from home, scared because the evil fairy was coming. It was a story—The Sleeping Beauty—I knew well, and yet, in spite of myself, my heart was pounding and my eyes kept darting around the stage, wondering when and how she would appear.
But I guess that’s what a good performance does to you. It takes you away and wraps you up in it, even if you know full well what’s about to happen next. I went to see The National Ballet of Canada’s production of this popular fairytale, and it didn’t disappoint. The always-beautiful principal ballerina Greta Hodgkinson played Princess Aurora, and guest artist Evan McKie played Prince Forimund. McKie, though now a dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet, actually trained with Canada’s National Ballet School, so this performance was something of a coming home event for him—and the excitement showed in both his presentation and the sold-out crowd’s reaction to it.
I’ve been in love with the story of Sleeping Beauty since I was young, but it’s a tale that has kept me enchanted well into adulthood (seriously. I own the Disney version on DVD). It’s a feeling, though, that I’ve come to realize isn’t just mine. For audiences and performers alike, it remains a classic.
“I always say to people, ‘You want to see the ballet? Go see The Sleeping Beauty,’” says National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Heather Ogden (all those posters you see around town of a gorgeous, sleeping blonde girl? That’s her). This season is her fourth time playing the role of Aurora, she says, but that doesn’t stop her and the other dancers from loving the ballet. “It’s a story from your childhood,” says Ogden, who joined the company in 1998 and became a principal dancer in 2005. “But even as an adult you can relate to it.” Indeed she can. Ogden is living something of a real life fairytale after falling in love with and marrying her pas de deux partner (and fellow principal dancer) Guillaume Côté. Sigh. But I digress.
“The Sleeping Beauty is one of those ballets that really requires the full package of a ballerina,” says Ogden, who, coincidentally, is from my neighbourhood. We trained at the same dance academy back in Richmond, B.C. (This is my claim to fame.) “It’s a fairytale story and also requires the hardest technique. It’s classical ballet at its purest.” After watching the show, I can’t help but agree. The company only had about six weeks of rehearsal time, but the performance was next to flawless (save from a short technical delay at the start and a too-long curtain call at the end). Made famous by the Russian dancer Rudolph Nureyev (who, once-upon-a-time, danced the ballet with current National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain) and set to the iconic music of Tchaikovsky, The Sleeping Beauty is indeed timeless.
So, yeah, I’m 21-years-old, and I’m an adult (well, of sorts), but I still get freaked out waiting for the wicked fairy, Carabosse (Maleficent was Disney’s creation, you guys), and I still clasp my hands together in childish wonder and joy at the sight of Prince and Princess together at last. I can’t help it, okay? There’s something to be said for those magical moments, no matter how staged, and no matter how fleeting.
Sleeping Beauty runs until March 18th. For tickets and more information, click here.
~ Sara Harowitz