A precise retelling of the beloved classic

The Philadelphia Ballet presents The Sleeping Beauty

2 minute read
Five pairs of dancers in rehearsal, all in pas de deux, the women holding large rose vine garlands.
The dancers prepare for the upcoming performance of 'The Sleeping Beauty.’ (Photo by Arian Molina Soca.)

The Philadelphia Ballet has a full calendar in March and, first up, The Sleeping Beauty returns to the Academy of Music with all the sumptuous pageantry one looks for in a ballet retelling of the classic fairy tale. Before he was the artistic director of the Philadelphia Ballet, Angel Corella was one of the world’s foremost male dancers. I asked him how his memories of performing The Sleeping Beauty’s Prince shaped his thinking when he was creating his version of the ballet. “I try to make it quicker, more straight to the point,” he said.

Iconic dreams

He didn’t change Act 1, Princess Aurora’s 16th birthday party because “it is all the very iconic moments,” like the Rose Adagio, where Aurora greets her suitors, moving from one to the other with slow delicate steps, and the garland dance, with the music made famous by the song “Once Upon a Dream” from the 1959 animated version.

The prince does not appear until Act 2 and Corella recalls that “by the time, as the prince, you appear, you are cold, it is very late in the evening.” And, he pointed out, in these days of social media and smartphones, it’s hard to hold the audience’s attention for that long. For the prologue, he cut some of the music and linked the fairy variations as they presented their gifts to the baby princess: “Every time a fairy finishes one variation, the other fairies are already blessing the girl, so it gives a connecting thread to all the fairies.”

But it wasn’t just about shortening the ballet for Corella. In Petipa’s day, the men of the company were there primarily to hold the ballerina aloft and present her in all her glittering glory. Today, he said, “dancers can do a lot more.” So, in the second act, he said, “There are three variations for the Prince, which most productions do not have.” He included the extra sections so that the men would have a more equal role and a chance to express the emotions of the part.

We both agreed, however, that the dancer to watch is the Lilac Fairy: “We are seeing the whole story through the eyes of the Lilac Fairy because she’s the one that sort of guides the king and the queen, she’s the one that guides Aurora, and she’s the one that guides the prince. So she’s the matchmaker almost.”

Corella has set the ballet on five main casts and each brings something of their own to the performance that audiences can explore.

What, When, Where

The Sleeping Beauty. Choreography by Angel Corella. Philadelphia Ballet. $25-$241. March 2-12, 2023, at the Academy of Music, 240 S Broad Street, Philadelphia. (215) 893-1999 or philadelphiaballet.org.


Covid-19 protocols are posted on the Kimmel Cultural Campus website.

The Academy of Music is an ADA-compliant venue.

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