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Photo by Gordon Wong.

The Sleeping Beauty was beautiful, graceful and exact

By Taylor Boileau on March 7, 2016

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of a headlining show on the Southam Stage. People flood into the National Art Center from all doors, and you’re excited about this process that, as a lucky Ottawa native, you may have experienced a few times since your childhood. The hum of voices discussing the show you’re about to see is eager as you make your way through the crowd. Walking along the red velvet carpet, you head for the red velvet rope to have your ticket scanned by a lovely person in a black and purple usher suit. This experience of grandeur is nearly surreal and can seem like an anomaly from your average life. The anticipation builds following that dimming of the lights in the lobby. You might not remember where you learned it but you’re sure of what it means. The show is about to start! You’re directed down the red velvet stairs to a red velvet seat where you sit before a red velvet curtain, eagerly awaiting the beautiful show you’ve been promised.

This weekend in the NAC’s Southam Hall, the orchestra greeted us in the pit. The hum of voices softened to silence when they began to play. Lights dimmed as the hall was filled with the orchestral sounds of the fairy tale Tchaikovsky score and the audience waited on baited breath for the curtain to rise.

Set in a land far far away, we enter in the court of the royal family preparing for the celebration of the kingdom’s new born princess, Aurora. Golden glimmering sets, large wigs and intricate 16th century costumes; the Hong Kong Ballet Company does not disappoint. The courts page introduces the scene, checking and rechecking his guest list before the attendees start flooding in. A dozen people enter gracefully, coupled up, spinning to the delicate symphony.

The court is rejoicing before the king and queen as the fairies enter center stage in their sparking tutu’s to bestow gifts unto the infant princess. Each piece demonstrated an impressive array of skills only available to a select few who spend their lives training as ballet dancers. As expected in a ballet, the performance was beautiful, graceful and exact. The dancers made this impossibly technical performance look effortless. While the ballerinas span quadruple pirouettes on point and the ballerinos did saubrasaut’s two feet in the air.

Of particular notice was the male dancer, Wei Wei, who performed the role of the evil witch Carabosse who, after being forgotten on the guest list of this joyful gathering, bestows a curse on Aurora to die at the age of 16.  Though no words were spoken, this performer had the difficult challenge of making his intentions known through mime, but he did more than that. Truly embodying his character, Carabosse represented the power of a strong female lead, expressing her mischievous intent in a graceful way, incorporating her shimmering cape into her grand, long and intent movements.

Lastly, the dream scene in the second act was my favourite. All the females of the company set the stage in shimmering green dresses and cast a dream like fog over the stage. Their slow, complimentary performance created a veil before the prince who held the love of his life at his fingertips, but cannot fully grasp her until he is lead to the castle where he can wake her with his kiss.