On Thursday I sat in the second row among a sea of captivated spectators to revel in three acts of The National Ballet’s rendition of Sleeping Beauty. My girlfriend and I scurried into the grand theatre with two minutes to spare before the lift of the curtains, only to discover we were being seated directly in front of the orchestra, where the sounds of pointe shoes thumping, dancer’s exhaling and pirouettes spinning the surrounding air, act as accompaniment to Tchaikovsky’s impeccable score. Sounds like these remind those lucky enough to hear them, that these are actually human beings performing – a fact that can be easily forgotten when dancing that flawless is being performed with such ease.
Like so many little girls, I had my ballerina moments growing up, even performing in The Nutracker for several years. My mother, the veteran dancer in my family, still practices ballet to this day, after spending many years of her adolescence training professionally. Thus, knowing how much effort goes into each arabesque, every elevation on pointe, and all of those piqué turns, I was mesmerized and continually in shock throughout each act. I’m told that Sleeping Beauty is a show that’s rarely produced because so many dancers are involved in each scene – and even after several minutes, I knew this fact to be true. Throughout the show, fifty ballerinas would surround the stage at one time, all the while keeping in form and making the scene look uncluttered and completely in sync. I can only imagine the nightmares this show’s choreographer must have had throughout rehearsals (and likely even as the show is performed).
Aside from the brilliant dancing and overflowing stage, the costumes were absolutely jaw-dropping. In tutus, gowns and capes that echoed a couture show in Paris, the garments adorning each ballerina seemed to become one more character in the fairy-tale – depicting luxury and intricacy in their truest forms. It’s as though ‘costume’ is an inappropriate term for this type of mastery in dressmaking.
It was incredibly refreshing to take in a show that projected such talent, when I so often find myself watching hopeless talent shows on TV, where ability and expertise are unfortunately, few and far between. It’s also a serious reminder of what can come about when people follow their dreams. It’s obvious that these dancers have dedicated their lives to this work. The blood-encrusted pointe shoes, bruises and aches, are all – I would imagine – worth the opportunity to showcase one’s technique in such a classic ballet. If the cliché lesson that Sleeping Beauty itself gives us isn’t moral enough, I can surely say that the efforts of ballerinas in the National Ballet are lesson enough of what dedication and sweat can get you in this world – exactly what you’ve always wished for.