Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Fantastic in the Fine Arts: Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty

In her post earlier today about the Dandelion Dancetheater, Megan talked about the "impressively broad vocabulary" of the dance company--one that includes, music, words, and dance.  This broad vocabulary of dance in general, the combination of music with movement, is one of the things that has always appealed to me about dance, and one of my favorites, as traditional as it is (particularly when compared to Dandelion's work) is Tchaikovsky's ballet Sleeping Beauty. The "Garland Waltz" is probably one of the best known pieces of music from the ballet, and also one of my favorites:

If this music sounds familiar and you're not a fan of ballet, it's because you've heard it elsewhere--in Walt Disney's 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty.  Disney added lyrics and made it the love theme for Princess Aurora and her prince.

But, of course, there is so much more to ballet than just the music.  It's the fusion of the music and the movement together that creates something magical, particularly when it all seems so effortless that we can't see the tremendous amount of physical work that goes into creating this imaginary fantasy world.  Now, I'm not an expert on ballet, but one performance of Sleeping Beauty that seems particularly effortless is that of Alina Cojocaru, a Romanian ballet dancer who is one of the principals with The Royal Ballet of London.

Her dancing is magical in and of itself; her posture, extension, and balance seem to defy basic laws of physics, all without allowing the viewer backstage to see the tremendous effort that goes into the creation of this illusion.  It's a fantasy that doesn't just tell a story--it imagines new possibilities for the movement of the human body.