“Sleeping Beauty is the hardest ballet for a classical ballerina. The audience will see she dances for three acts, with pure precise technicality, and the challenge of the artistry. The audience will love it—the music, the costumes, the set, it’s magical!” excitedly shares with me Rachele Buriassi, the Prima Ballerina playing Aurora in the new production from Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, choreographed by the extraordinary Marcia Haydée.
This Thursday is the official Canadian premiere of “Sleeping Beauty”, presented at the NAC, featuring the NAC Orchestra. I spoke with Buriassi about reinventing a classical story, how it was working with Marcia Haydée, and what her favourite ballet is.
Although in this new production, the role of the evil fairy is nuanced, and Carabosse explores the line between Good and Evil far more than ever before, “The version we are going to perform is classical of the old version. In the last few years, there are new interpretations and new ballet. But with classical ballet, you always have the original story, the Tchaikovsky music is the exact same,” says Buriassi.
When I ask about the intense preparation for the premiere and practicing, Rachele explains, “Because Sleeping Beauty is probably the hardest role for a classical ballerina, with the strongest ballet technique, preparation for this is totally different than others. It’s pure classical—precise with every step. You have to build up good stamina and go through the whole ballet. In the main role, I dance three full acts, it’s demanding on my body. The preparation started by learning the choreography. Once it’s known, we rehearse it, add some artistic flair to it, and start to build stamina. We run the ballet every day, so we feel comfortable on the day of the performance. It’s a very hard preparation. With shorter ballets, you have more room for creation.”
On taking a break and recharging during the busy season, Buriassi grows serious, “When I am not dancing, I need to rest. There’s no time to go anywhere, no time to enjoy anything, you need to focus on that one day and it’s so demanding mentally and physically. You dance and rest. In my free time, I do a lot of massage and acupuncture, and hot baths. But in preparation, my concentration and energy are all on this one moment.”
Curious about the costumes, I ask if they are hand-sewn for every ballerina. Rachele explains that costumes are fitted to every cast member, but for the principal role, danced by three girls, the costumes have to be adjusted for each one. Since Rachele is the Prima, I ask about the role of the two other girls playing Aurora in the production. “Because this ballet is so demanding, it’s almost impossible to dance every show. Your body needs two days to recover. Normally we have three dancers that switch, so the other can rest, but also in case of injuries, and COVID.” Buriassi is dancing the opening night premiere on Thursday, May 12, and the closing performance on Saturday, May 14.
The choreographer of this demanding production, Marcia Haydée, was born in Brazil in 1937. Studying at the Royal Ballet School in London, she then became the Prima Ballerina of the German Stuttgart Ballet, later leading the institution for twenty years. Known as one of the best ballerinas and choreographers of our time, it’s an immense pleasure to view her work in 2022. Buriassi was also a big part of the Stuttgart Ballet and made her way to First Soloist. When I ask how it is working on Sleeping Beauty with Haydée, Rachele smiles, “For me, it’s a little bit special. I was in the Stuttgart Ballet for 14 years, but haven’t had the chance to dance the main role of Aurora yet. Marcia couldn’t make it to Montreal, so we had Zoom rehearsals. It was incredibly inspiring because she made us remember that although it’s very technically demanding, we shouldn’t forget the artistic part. She gave good corrections about the acting parts of the ballet. She reminded us that you’re never gonna have the perfect show, it’s important to enjoy and feel the role.”
Ballet is a unique combination of technical dance performance and acting on stage, bringing a story to life, “The nice part of working with Marcia is she is open to working with dancers, she wants it to be comfortable. Every dancer is different, and adds this little flair and personal touch. She definitely does that, and allows us to do it too.”
When asked about her favourite ballet, Rachele looks away from the camera in thought, “It’s strange because everything I have to dance, it becomes my favourite. But Swan Lake stays in my heart, I saw it on TV and it made me want to become a ballerina. That was also the first big role I danced when I was young. The music of Tchaikovsky, it’s magical, with beautiful swans! But I love every big ballet I’ve done. They all stay in my heart and have different experiences on stage.”
Buriassi started dancing ballet at the age of four. Now thirty-four, I ask if anything has changed in her relationship with the precise art form, “The passion has always been there, it’s such a hard job, you really need to love it to do it. With age, I can be better at reminding myself that if something goes wrong, it’s okay; you are a human being. It’s still my passion, but I try to be healthy about it. It’s my job and not my life. As a ballerina, it’s very hard sometimes to separate the two. The age helped me become a better artist, give myself more credit—I am proud of myself, I had the courage to go up there and do it!”
Sleeping Beauty performances start with the premiere on Thursday, May 12. Tickets can be purchased here.