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Classic Ballet Gets a Makeover

A tale of love, magic, and fairy tale creatures captivated audiences as the Valdosta School of Ballet and VSU Theatre and Dance Department put on its original production of “Sleeping Beauty” last Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Valdosta High School Performing Arts Center.

A successor to the four-year run of the ballet “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty” premiered last year with tremendous success, according to the Valdosta Scene.

The story opens at the joyous christening of Princess Aurora, played by Lauren Lindsey. The celebration is harshly interrupted when the Wicked Fairy, played by Brooke Butler, makes her appearance. She places a curse on Aurora so that one day she will prick her finger and die; however, the Gold Fairy, played by Lacey Harper, quickly intercedes and changes Aurora’s fate to, instead of dying, falling into a deep sleep that only her true love can wake her from.

The Valdosta School of Ballet and VSU Theatre and Dance Department combined forces to make a show they can call their own. Drawing from several different adaptations, such as the classic version of the ballet and the Disney film, the team created something “with sword fights, love, humor, something for boys and girls, all told through dance,” Jacque Wheeler, the stage director and a VSU theatre professor, said.

However, the only “original” part that stands out to me is the choice of some the characters. Act III saw residents of Fairytale Land, such as Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Rapunzel. The dancing of all of Mother Goose’s finest drew out the celebration of Aurora’s return to the castle tremendously, and I honestly got bored watching it. However, this show was aimed at families, namely children, who probably delighted in seeing the familiar characters leap across and twirl along the stage.

I was thoroughly impressed with Lindsey’s portrayal of Aurora. She was playful, sweet, and charming, key elements to any fairy tale princess. I felt, though, her first encounter with the Prince, played by Nikolai Morschakov, could have been better and longer. A man who she has never seen before approaches her, yet she does not look alarmed. She twirls away from him with a cheery smile on her face, and after she dances away from him, he simply sweeps up and leads her lovingly off. This is a crucial part as he is the man who saves her later on, and we don’t see them together again until then.

The “Aurora and Prince Pas De Deux” part of Act III was the best performance throughout the ballet. Lindsey showed a strong level of trust as she allowed Morshackov to firmly twirl her around like a top, soar her through the air, and dip her down. The two moved beautifully together and portrayed the closeness of the characters extremely well. This was the best dance scene of the show.

The cast had a collaboration of talents. The dancers were from the Valdosta School of Ballet and the VSU Dance department. Students and professors from the VSU Theatre department played roles, such as members of the court. Even gymnasts from the YMCA contributed their skills as the Gingerbread Girls. This variety of background added more to the show and demonstrated how connected the performance arts truly are. 

The audience seemed to enjoy the collaborative production.

Although junior theatre major, Jessalin Smith, was busy selling tickets, she was able to see the ballet. 

“The show is very entertaining,” Smith said. “The third act is the best one.”

A friend to one of the ladies in waiting, Emily Gilman, thought the show was great as well.

“It was amazing,” Colton Wheeler said. “The blue bird solo was my favorite part.”

Not only were friends of the cast in the audience, but family came out to view the ballet as well.

“It was great,” Rob Clark, father to Ashley Clark, who played both Red Riding Hood and a lady in waiting, said. “The choreography was creative. The costumes were great.”

The show got stellar reviews from Ashley Clark’s grandmother, Judith Clark, who has a very extensive background in dance herself.

“I had a dance company in Boston for 40 years and I think this was a stellar performance,” Clark said. “The introduction of the little ones was a real moment of liberty. (This original take on the story) was wonderful and very well done. The ending was just precious.” 

The show was a success this year as both shows saw good crowds, though Saturday’s ticket sales were much busier, according to Isaac Huntington, a junior theatre major and house manager for the production.

All proceeds from the show went to the VSU’s Theatre and Dance Scholarship Fund.

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