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Review of Aurora’s Wedding from Sleeping Beauty

Aurora’s wedding from the sleeping beauty was the third act directed and performed by several people including Sergei Diaghilev[1], a Russian ballet impresario as well as a founder of the Ballets Russes dance[2]. The single act play was first performed in Paris in 1922. The prior performance of the whole ballet was done in London in 1921. The one performed in Paris is confined to the last part of the whole ballet. It is about the marriage feast for Aurora, the princesses and her prince. The dances are performed by the guests, with some of them being nobles and several fairies. Some of the fairy tales included is such as the White Cat, Puss in Boots, the wolf, the Little Red Riding Hood and the Bluebird who came to join the awakened princess. The princess also danced with her prince, Florestan. Although the act is set on a story, its musical content is the most important here considering it is supposed to be a ballet. Other aspects such as the choreography and the design enhance in giving meaning to the whole wet, as well as the visual arts used. Although the production is dated back to the 1920s, it evokes a strong visual theme of the time that is enhanced by the combination of all its aspects.

Diaghilev took the ballet to Europe under the name of The Sleeping Princess with his then established company, Ballets Russes in London. It was planned to run for six months and have alternations of Russian soloists. The production was quite opulent using sets of costumes designed by Leon Bakst. However, due to low turn out, the production had to stop after about 115 shows since the company was out of funds. At this time, Diaghilev had already entered into a contract to take the ballet to Paris. He left London with a huge debt, and the costumes were sequestered. Thus, he could only do the last act of the ballet, which is the wedding part. Additionally his dancers were on a leave since he had no money to pay. Therefore, he used borrowed costumes and scenery and changed the name of the ballet from The Sleeping Princess to Aurora’s Wedding. This was after the fail of The Sleeping Princess

Diaghilev was the first to take the ballet outside of Russia to London at first in 1921, then to Paris in 1922. However, the World War I and the revolution in Russia had contributed since they could no longer go back to perform in their home country[3]. Diaghilev commissioned Stravinsky that the solo part of Aurora at the end of part II, and the start of part III be orchestrated. The music had been composed by Tchaikovsky, the second of his three most famous compositions. The whole music is about 3 hours long, but it is usually cut in ballet performances. It has two themes, with the first one depicting Carabosse. Her character is depicted by the first angry part in the overture. The angry sounding part is because of Carabosse’s anger, who declared a curse on the princess after not being invited to her christening. In her anger, she curses that the princess will prick her finger when she is 16 years old and will die. However, the Lilac Fairy had said she would not die. Rather, she would fall to a deep sleep for 100 years where she would be awakened by prince desire

The music in the ballet is one of the many scores of Tchaikovsky that is considered to be among the most famous ballet music. However, during performance, it was cut due to its size in order to fit wit the story line. The music is full of notes pieces that include extensive divertissements, as well as ceremonial passages that fit the theme of the storylines that were modeled on Lully and Rameau[4]. The music varies in terms of speed. Some parts have a high tempo while others are low. This changes the steps of the dance where at high notes the dancers are fast with the steps and making sharp turns, as well as briskly steps. This sets the audience higher with emotions as the pace is varied. The variations also go with the storyline, where one would expect things to go first such as during the fight in order to enter the castle and awake the sleeping beauty. At this point, the pace and tone are high. This sets the mood for a duel as the story suggests. When the battle is won, the pace again slows down to show a change in the event where the prince awakens the sleeping beauty. Some of the set pieces are performed at a low key, mostly lacking grandeur.

The choreography of the ballet, especially the steps are set according to the music. The pace is set by the pace of the music, which depicts or represents the storyline as aforementioned. The ballet seemed not easy to perform considering the techniques that the dancers were using. For an ordinary person, it would not be an easy task. Some steps and moves seem undoable to an ordinary person, setting ones nerves during the performance. For instance, during the processions the steps follow the music at its ceremonial passages where all the dancers enter the stage in a celebratory mood. The changing of the pace is quite enjoyable as it sets different moods to the audience[5]. At the sharp turns, one wonders how possible it is to dance to such a pace. However, the dancers are good at it and manage without any difficulty, which makes it even more thrilling to the audience. Additionally, at the steps, the dance becomes even more enjoyable, where their movements are enhanced by the costumes, as well as the grandeur with which the dancers perform.

Costumes and design of the ballet are an important part of ballet dances since they reflect the overall concept of the particular ballet, the movement of the body, what is demanded by the choreography for each ballet as well as the effects that different fabrics could have while one is in motion. Ballet costumes can vary widely depending on the ballet itself. The costume design could adapt the traditional requirement for a particular dancing technique. The costumes have to allow for maximum movement of the body, while decorations had to be carefully placed in order to avoid injuring the dancers and their partners. Additionally, since the body is supposed to communicate the story to the audience, a costume that fits each character should be used. For instance, in this case, the Puss in Boots had to have costumes that fit a cat in boots or else the story would not be communicated. In the ballet or Aurora’s wedding, Diaghilev sought to bring the rich Russian cultures and style to Europe. The costumes had some Russian elements in them as well as modern styles considering he also focused on modernity. Through a representation of his homeland, he brought notable strands of Russian style to Europe. In the 1920s when the dance is performed, the costumes were exotic tunics and veils that were wrapped around the body. The dancers dressed in turbans and harems pants as opposed to the traditional tutu and feather headsets[6].

In this ballet, the costumes looked expensive considering their time and the design. The costumes have been designed to fit the musical content as well as to fit the dance. The men are dressed in harem pants and turbines. They allow free movement of the body with ease. Additionally, they fit the theme of celebrating a wedding as well as each character. Those won by the prince fit his character or status as a king, while they still allow him to dance with ease at the final dance. The Bluebird as well has costumes that fit the role. The lower body costumes for the male dancers are a bit loose. The tops are more decorated, and freer to allow the movement of the arms and have decorations at the end or the edges, as well as the edges of the coats below the waist. In some occasions, the costumes are accompanied by hats.

On the other hand, the female costumes are not quite long, and are free at the lower part of the body to allow free movement of the legs during the dance while they are tight at the upper body. Most of them have free flowing sleeves in order to allow free movement of the arms. However, for some of the characters, the costumes are a bit different in terms of length. This is meant to show different status within the dance where the ones with more embroidery and decorations are worn by the queen and some of the fairies. The Little Red Riding Hood is represented in a red hood as the name suggests. The female costumes are filled with bright decorations that enhance the beauty of the dance as well as bringing the right moods and emotions to the dance.

The design and colors used in the ballet presented a new aesthetic of the 20th century. The ballet used bright colors that reflected in the light to give clear and vivid images as well as to highlight the movement of the dancers at different parts of the body. This enhances their performance considering the stage is not very brightly lit, which I think has to do with the age. At the time, lighting of theaters was not as advances as the current one and bright clothes were ideal for enhancing the movement of the dancers. Further, the bright color fit the theme of the story considering that ballets are supposed to be telling a story using expressions of the body. Therefore, the bright costumes fitted the occasion, which is a wedding in this case. This further brought the right mood to the audience, since it would be unlikely for people to celebrate in dull colors. Further, the decorations on the costumes played a role towards enhancing the celebratory mood at the time.

Diaghilev and his company had traveled throughout several countries with performances. The group had become quite popular considering it incorporated talented dancers, choreographers and music composers[7]. During the First World War, Diaghilev and his company were banned from returning to Russia[8]. During this time, the company had to try out new ideas that would impress the European markets. This influenced his work where he sought to create new performance arts such as the Le Train Bleu and Les Biches, which looked more fashionable according to the society in which they had to live. This influenced the production of Aurora’s Wedding since he had to ensure it captured the European market. Additionally, the company had several productions that reflected on the Russian folklore as well as Orient and Greek legends.

At the time Diaghilev formed the company, much of ballet performances were done in Russia considering European ballets had gone down at the time. Therefore, when it became clear to Diaghilev during the World War I that the ballets had no future in Russia he had to seek other markets. It is for this reason that the company and its dancers relocated to Paris[9]. In order to revive ballets in Europe and other countries, it was important to incorporate some of the modern trends within the European setting together with the Russian style. This had a major influence in the production of Aurora’s dance in terms of costume and design of the arts, as well. Although much of Russian style could be seen, it was influenced by the European styles as well as new creative designs on which the company had been working. The company could not survive on Russian ballets alone. There was a need for a new style that could appeal to the modern society. The costumes thus took the form of daily clothes with which people could associate. This further influenced the fashion of the 20th century. They brought about modernism that changed costumes from the usual restrictions to a wider variety, in contrast to the traditional view.

The ballet is one of a kind considering it was performed in the 1920s and stills evoke a strong visual theme that is noticeable even today. The ballet uses several visual enhancing techniques that include the scenery, costumes and lighting. The music sets the pace of the choreography, which is closely related with the storyline. The entrance of the dancers, as they come to the feast, is depicted in the celebratory passages, in the music. The variations of the music change the action on stage, where the dancers change their steps and dance to the pace. Additionally, I realized that the pace was made to match with the mood of the story line where, where the scene of the duel to enter the castle by the prince takes place. As the guests enter the stage to celebrate the feast, the mood is set at low tone where progression is not paced up. This matches well with the theme of the story.

 

Work Cited

Ashley, Tim. “Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty – review,” The Guardian, last modified January 10, 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/jan/10/tchaikovksy-sleeping-beauty-review

Behan, Toby. “The Meridian Season of Aurora’s Wedding 2011,” theater review, November 17, 2011, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.theatreview.org.nz/reviews/review.php?id=4363

Hillyer Lynda. “Working for Diaghilev,” Victoria and Albert Museum, 2005, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/journals/conservation-journal/issue-50/working-for-diaghilev/

“The 20th-Century Ballet Revolution,” Victoria and Albert Museum, 2013, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/0-9/20th-century-ballet-revolution/

Gorman Jenny and Sippel Chris. “The Ballet Russes,” stanford.edu, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.stanford.edu/~gfreidin/gallery/ballet_russe.html



[1] Toby Behan, “The Meridian Season of Aurora’s Wedding 2011,” theater review, November 17, 2011, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.theatreview.org.nz/reviews/review.php?id=4363

[2]  “The 20th-Century Ballet Revolution,” Victoria and Albert Museum, 2013, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/0-9/20th-century-ballet-revolution/

[3]  “The 20th-Century Ballet Revolution,” Victoria and Albert Museum, 2013, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/0-9/20th-century-ballet-revolution/

[4] Tim Ashley, “Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty – review,” The Guardian, last modified January 10, 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/jan/10/tchaikovksy-sleeping-beauty-review

[5] Tim Ashley, “Tchaikovsky: The Sleeping Beauty – review,” The Guardian, last modified January 10, 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/jan/10/tchaikovksy-sleeping-beauty-review

[6] Lynda Hillyer, “Working for Diaghilev,” Victoria and Albert Museum, 2005, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/journals/conservation-journal/issue-50/working-for-diaghilev/

[7] Jenny Gorman and Chris Sippel, “The Ballet Russes,” stanford.edu, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.stanford.edu/~gfreidin/gallery/ballet_russe.html

[8]  “The 20th-Century Ballet Revolution,” Victoria and Albert Museum, 2013, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/0-9/20th-century-ballet-revolution/

[9] Jenny Gorman and Chris Sippel, “The Ballet Russes,” stanford.edu, accessed February 25, 2013, http://www.stanford.edu/~gfreidin/gallery/ballet_russe.html

 

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