The lobby at the Morrison Center was a sea of tiny pink and purple tutus, small sweaters and khakis, hair-bows, clip-on ties, a tiara or two, and a cacophonous symphony of children chattering on Saturday afternoon as a nearly packed house waited for the final bell to signal the beginning of Ballet Idaho's matinee performance of The Sleeping Beauty.
Voices hushed as BI's Artistic Director Peter Anastos took center stage and asked principal dancer Heather Hawk (The Fairy Carabosse) and company dancer Angela Napier (The Lilac Fairy) to demonstrate the pantomime they would use in the ballet to tell the story: The wicked Fairy Carabosse casts a spell on infant princess Aurora, so that on her 16th birthday, Aurora (principal dancer Phyllis Affrunti) will prick her finger on a poison spindle and die. The Lilac Fairy mitigates the curse so that instead, Aurora will sleep for 100 years until a handsome prince (principal dancer Jared Hunt) wakes her with a kiss and they live happily ever after.
It's no wonder that hundreds of parents brought their young ones to see the fairy tale writ large on the Morrison Center stage. Both young and old were entranced by the lush costumes, dramatic stage design and Tchaikovsky's mood-setting music. Hawk, dressed in the dark green and purple of a canopy-covered forest at night, excelled as the villain, her movements sharp and crisp as she gathered her minions--young students from BI's academy--around her. Napier, a tall, sturdy dancer, was quite fairy-like as she danced a bourree, and both she and Hawk brilliantly mimed with big, broad gestures to further the story along.
Affrunti and Hunt were visions, whether dancing solo, during a pas de deux or amid an ensemble. They maintained a regal air as their skills as dancers were put to the test: Affrunti presented the rose adagio with great grace and Hunt's jumps were beautifully executed.
Unfortunately, BI dancers may have been concentrating too hard on adages and arabesques to transmit the high level of energy and emotion--be it fear, sorrow or joy--that a ballet like The Sleeping Beauty needs to keep an audience from slipping into slumber. However, credit is due to the academy students who, though not tasked with the same degree of technical difficulty, brought enthusiasm to their small but necessary roles whether in Carabosse's court or during the Garland Waltz or wedding scene. They danced from their heads to their ballet slippers, and their genuine smiles brought needed light and life to the story.
With The Sleeping Beauty, Ballet Idaho leaves its 2010-2011 season, crowned heads held high, knowing it succeeded at staging an incredibly difficult ballet. And the academy better prepare: After watching Saturday's performance, there might be hundreds of young people hoping to join and dance their way into next season's shows.