Review: 'The Sleeping Beauty' by Boston Ballet

Angelica Potter

  • OnStage Boston Critic

Boston Ballet’s production of Marius Petipa’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ first premiered in 2005 and is once again enchanting audiences with its classic story, familiar music and sensational dancing.

The ballet features majestic music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky with choreography by Marius Petipa and additional choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton. It tells the story of Princess Aurora who was cursed as an infant by the Fairy Carabosse. Thanks to the Lilac Fairy, Aurora will not die from this curse, but will instead fall into a deep sleep to only be awakened by a Prince’s kiss. After one hundred years in slumber and with help from the Lilac Fairy, Aurora is found by Prince Desire, who wakes her with a kiss thus breaking the spell. 

The costume and scenic design for this production are by David Walker, with lighting by John Cuff. The detailed backdrops of the set were natural in their color and blended nicely with the more muted tones of the costumes during the Prologue. This allowed for the brighter and richer tones of the King, Queen and Fairies’ costumes to really stand out. The lighting nicely amplified these differences making it clear to the audience who was who in the Royal Court, and in the case of Carabosse and her creatures, who was not welcome.

From the start of the overture Tchaikovsky’s music, played by the Boston Ballet orchestra and wonderfully conducted by Jonathan McPhee, was magical and hushed the chatty audience right away. The prologue featured smooth and flowing movement from the Fairies, their Cavaliers and Lilac Fairy Attendants. Each Fairy demonstrated their unique personality within their solos even though their tempos and dancing varied. Some were sharp, some were bouncy, while others were smooth and delicate. One of the highlights of the Prologue was the incomparable Dusty Button as the Lilac Fairy. She was perfectly in-sync with the music, with each accented note precisely in time with her dancing. She was absolutely stunning. Shortly after her, Carabosse’s creatures, all wearing malicious looking masks, creepily danced around the stage. When they rolled Carabosse, played by Erica Cornejo, on stage in her dark and eerie coach, the moment was both amazing and terrifying. Act one featured a beautiful garland dance by the company to the familiar tune of “Once Upon a Dream”.

Misa Kuranaga, as Aurora, was dazzling, receiving applause after many complex sequences including extended balancing on pointe, boundless leaps and supreme turns. Her facial expressions matched her sixteen year-old character precisely and she danced with joyful gracefulness. While Kuranaga was fantastic throughout, her dancing became stronger over the duration of the ballet. She fully engages her back when using her arms, showing masterful awareness of the body and how movement, no matter how slight, is connected and impacts the rest of the body.  She maintains full control of her movement, lifting her extensions higher and breathing through her transitions, making them just as important as the complex choreography they intertwine.

Act two introduces us to Prince Desire on a hunting expedition in the woods one hundred years after Carabosse’s spell put Aurora to sleep. As Prince Desire, Paulo Arrais was strong and confident in his dancing all while portraying his character’s longing for fulfillment and true love. Kuranaga glowed as Prince Desire’s vision of Aurora. Their partnering was confident and fluid. They truly brought the fairytale magic to life on stage and were entirely mesmerizing. Act three concludes the story with the celebration of the marriage of Princess Aurora and Prince Desire. Their pas de deux was breathtaking to watch and it exemplified their characters’ happiness and love. Arrais once again demonstrated impeccable skill and artistry as he leapt across the stage in a lengthy sequence and completed it with ease as if it took no effort at all.

Other highlights of act three include Ji Young Chae as Princess Florine and Junxiong Zhao as Blue Bird. She was dainty, but strong with pristine balances, exquisite extensions and exuberant facial expressions. His high flying jumps were energetic and well executed. Their musicality and partnering was fantastic. They were wonderful to watch. The White Cat and Puss’N Boots, danced by Rie Ichikawa and Lawrence Rines, were amusingly delightful to watch. Their cheeky interactions and bouncy “pas de chat”, meaning “step of the cat”, made them an audience favorite for sure. ©   

Though this production runs about 2 hours and 45 minutes including two intermissions, the classic love story and beautiful dancing by the company make this a ballet for the whole family. ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ performs at the Boston Opera House (539 Washington St, Boston, MA) through May 27th. Tickets and more information can be found at or by calling the Box Office at 617-695-6955.

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