"Sleeping Beauty" starts with a bang. Even before the curtain rises, the evil fairy Carabosse springs to life musically when her angry musical tagline is the first sound from the orchestra pit.
At least thats how it happens ideally. Since N.C. Dance Theatre cant afford an orchestra, the companys first staging of "Sleeping Beauty" which opened Thursday relies on a recording to produce Tchaikovskys music. That just doesn't have the same power. It signals that NCDTs "Sleeping Beauty" wont really be about the opulence and grandeur of classical ballet. Instead, NCDT is offering ballets poetry, warmth and dancer-by-dancer drama.
You can see them in the lushness that Alessandra Ball playing the heroine, Princess Aurora adds to the grace of Marius Petipas classic choreography. You see them in the way Addul Manzano, as Prince Florimond, sweeps into leaps and pirouettes as love stirs the prince out of his melancholy.
Telling moments like those run through the whole story. In the opening scene, several of NCDTs women including Melissa Anduiza, Sarah Hayes Watson and Jamie Dee give spirited, sparkling life to the fairies who try to protect the baby princess from vengeful Carabosse. In the finale, a series of zesty dancers act out "Little Red Riding Hood" and other fairy tales during the celebration.
Yes, everyones decked out in elegant, inventive costumes that add glitter. But the companys size and budget -- and the relative compactness of the Knight Theater stage -- mean that spectacle isnt the order of the day. Showcasing that has to wait for a richer Charlotte of the future.
Since NCDT only has 16 dancers in its main company hardly enough to populate a 2 1/2-hour story ballet it marshaled its NCDT 2 training company, apprentices, and students to flesh things out. Its mainly in the ensemble numbers for party scenes that the companys artistic director, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, has supplied flowing, neatly woven choreography to suit the forces at hand. The young dancers perform it airily, even when their synchronization is a little loose.
But the focus always goes back to Balls Princess Aurora, who takes on a differing shading in each scene. At her birthday party, before Carabosses curse kicks in, shes buoyant and bright. When shes conjured up as a vision for the Prince, Ball dances with a softness that gives her an air of being not of this world. During the wedding celebration, she exudes happy-ending cheerfulness.
Manzanos prince is poised and energetic, though his lack of a ready smile limits the jubilation he projects at the end. As the malevolent Carabosse, on the other hand, David Ingram projects plenty from his face, what with its fright-night makeup not to mention his clawed fingers and crouching, menacing presence. Compared to him, Balls Aurora seemed all the sweeter.