Presented by: The Royal New Zealand Ballet
The Opera House, 29th Oct 2020
Reviewed by: Leah Maclean
After a long COVID-induced hiatus, the Royal New Zealand Ballet returned to the stage with their season of The Sleeping Beauty. The return came with a buzzed audience and a few minor technical difficulties, but the novelty of being in the theatre again meant that nobody seemed to mind.
Sleeping Beauty is the beloved fairy tale that has been around for centuries and has been adapted countless times. It is a story rich with drama, romance, and vitality; but unfortunately, this ballet did not quite hit the mark. Obviously, there were some roadblocks with collaborators unable to travel due to lockdown restrictions and dancers having to rehearse in bubbles, but I won’t dwell on that.
The production is split into three acts and seems to take shortcuts with the classic story – critically, there is no spinning wheel for the doomed Princess Aurora (Kate Kadow) to prick her finger on and Prince Désiré’s (Laurynas Vėjalis) quest to rescue her is colourless. The choreography is drawn out and the dancers seem a little unsure of themselves, and with an excess of sweeping ballroom scenes, it feels repetitive.
Loughlan Prior’s Master of Ceremonies’ corralling of a group of children and the live accompaniment from Orchestra Wellington (conducted by Hamish McKeich) bring some charm to the work. Kadow and Vėjalis perform their roles carefully. I have been astounded by Vėjalis’ elevation before and was not disappointed to see him glide effortlessly through the air once again. Kadow is a tender dancer but shows her might in extended sections en pointe.
The Carabosse (Kirby Selchow) and her minions play a minor role, but they manage to demonstrate their cunning through sharp leaps and exaggerated extensions. The costuming for this wily crew, created by Donna Jefferis, is a sight to behold. Sparkling, gothic numbers with just the right amount of edge.
While it had moments of finesse and fancy, The Sleeping Beauty ultimately fell flat but likely enchanted the children in the audience.