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Dance Review

New Principals Competent, Sedate in 'Beauty'

May 23, 1997|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE WRITER

Apart from scattered technical mishaps, the dancing by a new slate of Royal Ballet principals and soloists remained coolly professional and expressively sedate in "The Sleeping Beauty" at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Wednesday.

Even evil banked its fires: As Carabosse, Ashley Page seemed fitfully gleeful but most often aware that the Lilac Fairy had all the power. So his character's generative curse seemed only a colossal bluff. As Lilac, Rachael Whitbread looked like a winged CEO as she efficiently presided over the fairy divertissement and, later, the disposition of the stricken Aurora and her lovelorn Prince. No enchantment here.

A tiny and childlike Aurora, Leanne Benjamin proved technically inconsistent in the Rose Adagio (the balances in extension looked like penal servitude) and more at home in the Vision Scene, where she capitalized splendidly on speed and lightness. She brought little but the strength of her schooling to the grand pas de deux.

As Florimund, Bruce Sansom seemed a repository of all the Royal's nobility of style but with nothing unique of his own besides a princely profile. Even before the grand pas de deux fell apart in the fish dives, his partnering looked effortful, but his solo boasted strongly executed high-speed turning leaps and a perfect termination.

Among the fairies, Gillian Revie excelled as Generosity and Natalie McCann as Eloquence. At the wedding, Shi-Ning Liu made a promising but forced Bluebird, intently working at the technique when he should have been in full flight. Opposite him, Muriel Valtat: a gracious but oddly impersonal Princess Florine. Lastly, Yohei Sasaki did, indeed, look good as Gold.

* The Royal Ballet dances its "Ravel Evening" tonight at 8, then "Sleeping Beauty," Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. $20-$75. (213) 365-3500.

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