The very first production of The Sleeping Beauty was presented in 1890 at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was the second ballet composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and was the first piece he worked on with Marius Petipa, one of history’s most influential ballet masters. It ran over four hours long and featured a cast of 130 dancers. The version being staged at The Washington Ballet through Sunday, March 3, runs two-and-a-half hours and features approximately 45 dancers. And that’s just fine by Julie Kent.
“We have a company of 32 dancers plus a pseudo company of 12 and trainees,” she says. “We’re in the Eisenhower Theater, which is a smaller theater, a smaller orchestra pit, so everything kind of has to be scaled to the right size and tone and speed. But we’re really excited about how it will fit.”
Kent — who, along with husband Victor Barbee, is staging the current production — hopes it will become a signature piece for the ballet, further bolstering a repertoire she’s been reshaping since taking over as artistic director a few years back from Septime Webre.
“We’re thinking of it as the crafting of a couture gown for our company,” she says. “It will have a great tone to it and a great sense of charm, and a sense of theatricality, a nice, modern tempo.”
Kent says the appeal of Tchaikovsky’s ballets are forever enduring, for both their music and their subject matter.
“The music is identifiable and is really beautiful,” she says. “It’s so evocative. When you hear the music in The Sleeping Beauty, it’s unlike anything else. It makes you feel things. And then, the stories also are so familiar and charming. There’s something very, very comforting when you are going to see a story that you’ve known since your childhood.” —Randy Shulman
The Washington Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty runs through Sunday, March 3 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $25 to $160. Call 202-467-4600 or visit www.washingtonballet.org.