This past week, in collaboration with U of M, the American Ballet Theatre brought their hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary production of Sleeping Beauty to Detroit. Featuring the original choreography by the legendary Marius Petipa and a solo by the one and only Misty Copeland, Sleeping Beauty was beautiful, exquisite, and energetic. From the intricate and absolutely decadent costumes, to the beautiful, sweeping music and majestically towering sets, Sleeping Beauty transported me to another world—one in which a two and a half hour-long ballet can feel as sweet and fleeting as a daydream.
The feeling in the Detroit Opera House was electric, enchanted. I’m normally not a huge fan of the ballet; I grew up a musical theatre geek, so I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around how people could find a show without words interesting. Saturday night, though, I finally understood.
I also was incredibly struck by the fact that this production featured the original choreography by Marius Petipa. Here were movements originally executed in St. Petersburg in the 1800s, now on a stage in Detroit in 2016, unfolding before my eyes. I felt both small and like a thread woven into a much larger tapestry. I felt connected to history, to the humans who lived in that other place in that other time. And that kind of connection is magic. It is an honor to be a part of it.
Everyone knows the story of Sleeping Beauty, so I was less intrigued by the storyline as much as the dancing itself. The ballerinas and ballerinos leaped and twirled across the stage—executing perfect entrechat after perfect entrechat—like this was what they were born to do. They made it seem effortless; even their faces were part of the dance, expressions reflecting whatever emotion they wanted to convey at any moment, rather than showing the immense concentration and effort it must take to dance in such a manner.
All of the dancers were wonderful, and it’s clear why they’re part of one of the best companies in the world. The ballerina playing Aurora (Hee Seo) practically defied gravity—and, of course, Misty Copeland was spectacular as well. After waiting through the first two acts to see her, the crowd broke into applause and cheers when she appeared onstage, finally, in the third act. Everything about her was singularly focused and in the moment, precise and delicate and full of emotion. It was breathtaking to witness.
Altogether, American Ballet Theatre’s Sleeping Beauty showed me how much dance connects us and how gorgeous stories can be—even (and especially) the ones we think we already know. The ballet about sleeping made me feel somehow like I was both in a luscious dream and beautifully wide awake.