The reconstruction bug has been caught by the music world, but is still fairly new to dance, with the exception of the work of Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer and notators, such as Ann Hutchinson Guest. The Petipa ballets are the heritage not only of the Kirov, but of all classical dance troupes. Sleeping Beauty is one of the finest achievements of the Imperial Ballet and deserves careful restorative treatment.
Of great interest is the alleged attitude of older generations of Russian dancers who believe that the revisions they are accustomed to should not be replaced by choreography we now know brings us closer to the original. After years of hiding behind "after Petipa" or, worse yet, simply attributing any and every revision to Petipa, the party line has changed and the revisions are now hailed as canonical.
The restoration of mime scenes restores the balance lost during years of revisions. Each act begins with a mime scene, followed by an ensemble dance or dances (waltzes in the Prologue and Act I, hunt dance and Farandole in Act II) or an ensemble entrée (Polacca in Act III). These introductory dances lead to a pas d'action or, in Act III, an extended divertissement, which culminates in the pas de deux for Aurora and Désiré. Were the mime restored to their adagio, this dance would also be a pas d'action, achieving a balance between the acts.
The Kirov production looks wonderful and gives the feeling of the 1890s through its restored sets and costumes. In fact, the look is so right, one must force oneself to watch the dance and see if the same sort of restoration treatment has been given to the choreography. The steps, however, are a mixture drawn from the notations and other versions. Further, clearly-notated steps have been ignored in a number of instances. Significant discrepancies between what is notated and what was danced, coupled with the claim that the dancing is a reconstruction of the notation, brings the Kirov's scholarship into question. If reconstructors use such descriptive terms as "original" and "authentic" and claim to be presenting a dance restored from notated sources, the audience is entitled to see that dance and not something else. Notes in the program book or elsewhere explaining how sources were or were not used would be helpful.
Questions of style may also be considered. The Kirov made a conscious choice to dance Sleeping Beauty the way it dances other classics - with late-20th century style and manners - rather than try to incorporate stylistic elements of the past. Had the reconstructors consulted a variety of notated ballets, they might have found a way to combine period style with modern balletic movement, particularly in their port de bras.
Despite the magnificence of the Kirov's new Sleeping Beauty, the door remains open for a more thorough reconstruction of the ballet's choreography. Using information from the répétiteur and adhering more strictly to the notations, rather than mixing notated steps and later Soviet-era changes, would result in less diluted choreography and give a clearer picture of the creators' intentions. Only then can a proper evaluation be made of this Petipa-Tchaikovsky-Vsevolozhsky masterpiece.
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Copyright © Doug Fullington 1999. All rights reserved.