In a nostalgic retrospective, the new Imperial Russian Ballet is bringing Sleeping Beauty to the Israeli stage as part of its international tour. Founded in 1994 by the eminent Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, the Imperial Russian Ballet takes its name from a dance academy established in St. Petersburg in 1738. The original company first performed before the royal court, but after 1780, it also began to dance at the Petrovsky (now Bolshoi) Theater. Widely acknowledged as the center of Russian ballet, the company moved to the Mariinsky Theater in the late nineteenth century, taking on the Mariinsky name. When the theater was renamed during the Soviet period, the company again changed its name. It was known as the Kirov Ballet until the Soviet dissolution in 1991, when the Mariinsky name was reclaimed.
But the contemporary Imperial Russian Ballet's connections to the past go beyond mere nomenclature. With its rendition of the classic 19th-century ballet Sleeping Beauty, the company is also touching upon historical music and choreography. Originally commissioned in 1888 by Ivan Vsevolozhsky, director of the imperial theaters in Russia, the music for Sleeping Beauty was composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and the choreography was created by Marius Pepita. Their collaboration, based on Charles Perrault's fairy tale, produced not only Tchaikovsky's first ballet success, but set a new standard for what is today considered classic ballet.
Perhaps one of the most important ballets of the next century because of its influence on so many famous dancers and choreographers, Sleeping Beauty was the first ballet that dance impresario Sergei Diaghilev and ballerinas Anna Pavlova and Galina Ulanova ever saw. It introduced the Ballet Russe to European audiences, and gave legendary choreographer George Balanchine his stage debut as a cherub in the last act of the production.
The ballet tells the classic story of the beautiful princess Aurora, who is cursed by an evil witch at birth and destined to prick her finger on a spindle and fall asleep for one hundred years. The production comes to life on stage with elaborate costumes and theatrical music. Aurora is awakened by a prince's kiss, and a series of bravura variations conclude the two-act ballet.
The fairy tale evokes a rich sense of history and a renewed appreciation for pre-Soviet achievements. Featuring Bolshoi Theater soloists in the leading roles, Sleeping Beauty will be performed in Israel under the auspices of the Rest International production company. The fairytale unfolds in cities across the country next week.
Call (04)862-9959 or (04) 840-1057 for tickets to the performance of Sleeping Beauty at the Haifa Auditorium on April 8, 6:30 p.m.; call (02) 625-6872 or (03) 625-9976 for tickets to the performance April 9 at 7:00 p.m. at Jerusalem's Binyanei Ha'uma; call (03) 579-0033 or (03)522-6646 for tickets to the performance April 11 at 7:00 p.m. at Tel Aviv's Mann Auditorium; call (08) 675-9989 or 052-344-8911 for tickets April 12 at 2:00 p.m. at Ashkelon's Heichal Hatarbut; call (08) 645-0271 or 050-772-5491 for tickets April 13 at noon at Be'er Sheva's Heichal Hatarbut. For general information, call (03) 579-0033.