Sleeping Beauty Dreams: An Odd and Entertaining Dream

Nice to see Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes back in action in Sleeping Beauty Dreams at the Beacon Theater. They last performed together in New York in Diana’s final American Ballet Theatre performance in June 2017 in an emotional farewell.

Sleeping Beauty Dreams is a modern interpretation of Princess Aurora’s dreams during her 100 year slumber after Carabosse cast her evil spell. The co-star of the production is the stunning media art, generated by real-time avatar mapping projection technology by *fuse. I don’t know what that means, but it generated spectacular visual video images: robot and skeleton outlines that rapidly morphed into other shapes; facial outlines that crumbled and disassembled in interesting patterns; human outlines that resembled liquid; a multitude of gold masks that merged into one; bright red amber that resembled turbulent activity on the sun; spaghetti and hair shaped strands that assembled in numerous patterns.

No Tchaikovsky here as the score is modern techno-pop electronic music by Thijs De Vlieger, what you would expect to hear at a Berlin night club. The subwoofers at the Beacon were turned up to 11 as the throbbing bass punctuated the air.

This was a truly a multi-dimensional experience and I spent as much time (or more) watching the video projections as the dancers. The real star of the production is the technology, which overshadowed the efforts of the two international superstars, choreographed by Edward Clug.

Demon of Fear Avatar. Photo courtesy of Sleeping Beauty Dreams.

The two act performance began with the prologue in which the princess was asleep on a spartan clear triangle “bed”. In sleep, her mind wandered and her Soul rose above her body and her dream world commenced. Three demons are central to her dream and first act: Demon of Fear, Violence, and Greed and these avatars dominated the backdrop in numerous forms (the Demon of Fear avatar is pictured above). The Princess defeated the Demon of Fear only to be confronted by the Demon of Violence. She repelled the attack and the Demon of Greed appeared, only to be defeated. The Prince (Marcelo) showed up and the two took on the three Demons that joined forces and the two vanquished their foes.

Act II is more serene as the Three Temptations visited. The Princess sampled a life of endless pleasures, yet she is not happy. Her disenchantment exploded into fury, as she was transformed into a heartless Goddess of Destruction. All seemed lost as the Prince entered and kissed her as the storm went away.

Marcelo Gomes and Diana Vishneva. Photo courtesy of Sleeping Beauty Dreams.

Diana’s dancing was filled with emotion and intensity as she showed her dynamic range in more modern fare. Choreography by Edward Clug was not motivated by the Petipa classic; those expecting classical form were greatly disappointed. As much as I appreciated Diana and Marcelo’s efforts, not much stood out. The movement seemed subordinated to the real star of the show, the technology providing the eye-catching visual kaleidoscope. Ten males served as the ensemble, a cast of Good and Evil Spirits, lovers, and fans all in white gowns. Consistent with the production, costumes by Bart Hess were odd, particularly Marcelo’s bubble shirt.

Beacon Theater is a non-standard place for dance and had several things not experienced at a typical ballet performance: airport type security upon arrival, a delayed start time (8:25 pm), and audience members not hesitating to record video or photograph the performance.

The interpretation of Aurora’s 100 year dream is an interesting innovation to the classic. When spring comes around, I will be thinking of this interpretation between Act I and II of ABT’s Alexei Ratmansky version of Sleeping Beauty, anticipating the Prince’s kiss that wakes up Aurora and ends her dream.

Marcelo Gomes