Do you believe in love at first sight?
I sure do. I fell in love this weekend with New York City Ballet’s production of The Sleeping Beauty.
And again when I indulged in three precious mini cupcakes from Baked By Melissa, but more on that later.
NYCB brings the story of Princess Aurora to life with Petipa’s fantastical choreography staged by artistic director Peter Martins, resplendent costumes from NYCB’s own costume shop, Monet-like scenery, and the whimsical music of Tchaikovsky’s original libretto played to perfection by NYCB’s 64 piece symphonic orchestra. Simply magnificent.
I’ll admit, I’m often wary of classical fairytale ballets—for me they sometimes feel repetitive, stilted, and a bit cheesy—so usually I prefer contemporary ballet works that are new! exciting! minimalistic!
NYCB’s Sleeping Beauty exceeded all of my expectations for a classical fairytale ballet. It truly was love at first sight of the swirling capes and jewel-bedecked gowns that swept the stage. I’m almost certain I let out an audible sigh of admiration as the First Act fairies flitted across stage in tutus that glistened all the way up to my fourth-ring balcony seat (student wallets can only afford so much extravagance).
The story of the ballet is very much the same as the Disney movie version. Princess Aurora is born and magical fairies come to the castle to bestow their gifts upon the infant. Suddenly, the Fairy Carabosse (the evil fairy godmother renamed Maleficent by Disney) intrudes the party to bestow a curse: the princess will prick her finger on a spindle and die on her 16th birthday.
Anyway, long story short, Lilac Fairy saves the day by sending Aurora and the entire kingdom into a magical slumber only to be awoken when Aurora receives true love’s first kiss. Luckily for our guileless princess, the Lilac Fairy has been looking out for her while she snoozes and chooses for her Prince Désiré (AKA Prince Phillip). The Prince falls in love with Aurora and immediately they get married in a lavish wedding ceremony which takes place in Act II. They all live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, the story does not convey the same charm paraphrased as it does on the stage of the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center told by the bodies of some of the world’s most elite ballerinas.
The Lilac Fairy, played on Sunday evening by soloist Ashley Laracey, was simply superb. Her lithe limbs portrayed the graceful wisdom of her character, who is the true unsung hero of the fairytale. She was flanked by her court of five fairies, who certainly glimmered in pastel tutus and danced in such spritely, frenetic fervor they seemed almost a bit frantic at times. While their solos were not my favorite fairy choreography, they danced beautifully with their cavaliers.
Princess Aurora makes her entrance in the second scene at her birthday celebration, wearing a glimmering tiara and tutu of pink, played impeccably by miss Tiler Peck, principal dancer. The Rose Adagio is the first piece the princess performs in the ballet and is a notoriously difficult piece of choreography. The role of Aurora requires superhuman amounts of strength and endurance throughout the entire ballet. This piece in particular looks effortless, yet includes the most technically-demanding steps. There are sequences where the dancer must balance on one leg en pointe with the other in a back attitude (fancy talk for holding the leg up slightly bent behind you) punctuated by series of quick turns and controlled développé extensions (basically, lifting your leg as high as you can).
Peck executed with the utmost technique while maintaining the character of the 16 year old princess—young, excited, and gracious to all the villagers celebrating with her. Peck did, however, have one minor snafu at the very beginning of the adagio: during the landing of a small jump, her feet slipped right out from under her and she landed on the floor. The audience held its breath. Peck hopped right back up to continue the dance without missing a beat. The professionalism and resilience it takes to complete the rest of the ballet after a blunder is exceptional. Still, Peck illuminated the stage with her Prince Désirée (the admirable principal dancer Tyler Angle); the pair’s Wedding Pas de Deux at the end of Act II was mesmerizing and—dare I say—downright exciting.
Of course there were a myriad of other featured dancers who stole the spotlight for themselves at moments, particularly those who portrayed fairytale characters in attendance at the wedding. One such standout was corps de ballet member Troy Schumacher, who was wonderfully buoyant in the Bluebird Pas de Deux. Another was Alessia Riera, an adorable School of American Ballet student who played Little Red Riding Hood and stole all of our hearts.
And speaking of adorable, just look at these cute little cupcakes! I stopped at Baked by Melissa, a boutique bake shop famous for selling bite-sized versions of your favorite cupcakes, muffins, and macarons, after the show to pick up the perfect post-theater treat.
My favorite was the Mini of the Month flavor, Caramel Pretzel Crunch. My first thought was simply amazement at how pillowy soft this tiny treat is. The cake part tasted like pure vanilla, which complimented the faint nuttiness of the white chocolate quinoa bark topper. It’s astonishing how many flavors were packed into this little bite of heaven.
Next is the Red Velvet, which is always my go-to flavor for dessert. Again, the cupcake was so soft it practically melted in my mouth. The cream cheese flavor of the icing was strong, which I enjoyed, and the cake was more chocolatey than I expected. A delectable choice.
Finally, the one I was most excited to try was the Sugar Cookie Cheesecake, part of the Winter Collection available until March 6. This cupcake packed a whole lot of sugar punch in one bite. Could this sweet treat possibly be, perhaps…a little too sweet? For me, the sugar cookie flavor seemed to overpower the cheesecake.
If you’re still looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day date idea, or you want to treat yourself this week, there’s still time to get tickets to New York City Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty, on stage until February 19th. And after your dreamy night at the ballet, don’t forget to indulge in the mini cupcake of your dreams!
P.S.- The Fordham Jetés will be performing our version of The Sleeping Beauty at the end of April. Catch me as Joy Fairy and Diamond!