My first ever visit to the ballet was when I was a wee child, one magical Christmas in Toronto. Every winter The National Ballet of Canada showcases The Nutcracker. It seems like every parent with a bit of charisma and culture on their mind takes their children to see this iconic ballet. The music by Tchaikovsky immediately reminds me of everything that is good about the holiday season: hot cocoa, garlands, twinkling lights and turkey feasts. It really is amazing how impactful the art of dance is for children at such a young age. We sit in our huge seats, stare out at a massive stage and watch what only seems like magic take place right in front of our very eyes. I remember walking back to the car with my family in some freezing underground parking garage. I couldn’t stand still, I pranced about the pavement with dreams of being a ballerina myself. I had been lulled by the orchestra and captivated by the costuming. I was the queerest kid 30 feet under Queen Street.
Last night I had the opportunity to connect with my inner child once more at the National Ballets premiere of The Sleeping Beauty. I arrived a bit frazzled on a cold night in March, found my seat and deflated. I closed my eyes and smiled as the orchestra began to tune its instruments. It was a Saturday night and I looked around to realize that I was surrounded by 10 year old girls dressed with ribbons in their hair. One of them (a younger version) even played with a Barbie as her mother ran out to grab a glass of champagne. The smell of fur and leather reminded me of a walk through the woods. The girl sitting directly behind me applied a generous amount of cherry Lipsmackers to her pouty lips. She offered me some, I declined but gave her my many thanks. She asked me, “Have you seen this ballet? Have you heard of Sleeping Beauty?” I responded, “Well yes my father was Walt Disney I’m very familiar with the storyline but am really just hoping on juxtaposing the animation I am so familiar, with the live action on stage this evening.” She immediately made a face as though I smelled like something bad. I turned around and stared back onto the stage. Is this what my life now amounted to? Saturday nights sitting alone at the ballet surrounded by little girls dressed up as dolls? No wonder I am single! The lights were dimming and the crowd exuded an energy of anticipation. Barbies were zipped back into their mothers Birkin’s. The show began.
One of the paramount examples of the choreographic art of the 19th-century, Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty has never lost its ability to move and enthrall audiences. Rarely, if ever, have music – in this case by Tchaikovsky – and dance been so perfectly and seamlessly integrated in the service of narrative than in this unmatched blend of spectacle and artistry. Each musical phrase and every step of dancing feels conceived in precise relation to the whole, resulting in a work of astonishing formal unity.
The first scene opens on a lavish court setting of the mid-16th century where King Florestan and his Queen are celebrating the christening of their baby daughter, Princess Aurora. Beautiful fairies arrive, bringing gifts and good wishes to the baby princess. Catalabutte, the master of ceremonies responsible for compiling the guest list, remembers that he has forgotten to invite the evil fairy Carabosse who suddenly arrives during the festivities. Carabosse is furious at being slighted and declaring that she will be avenged she predicts that one day Princess Aurora shall prick her finger and die. At that moment the beautiful Lilac Fairy appears and alters the curse by promising that the Princess shall not die but fall asleep for 100 years, only to be awakened by the kiss of a prince.
It’s funny how we can run around a city preoccupied as adults with the “goings on of life” and then all of a sudden find ourselves in a pitch black room watching some thirty odd beautiful dancers prance in unison to the pluck of a violin and hark of the trumpet. I quickly fell into an escapist mode allowing my mind to surrender to the stage and the dancers upon it.
Everything about The Sleeping Beauty made me smile. From the pitter patter of toes shuffling across the stage on point to the enunciated bottoms of the male dancers. I was captivated by the opulent sets and delighted by the design of the ensembles costuming: from tights to tutu’s. My favorite character was the Lilac Fairy who moved around the stage and up and down the staircase throughout the show as if she was gliding on air.
The final scene culminates the ideology of true love at the wedding of Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund. It was in these last few moments that I came full circle. I saw a small girl sitting on her mothers lap clapping as the duo on stage bowed to the audience. Her eyes twinkled and she looked positively captivated. It was in that very moment that I realized that I really am young at heart. So what if I’m at the ballet alone on a Saturday night? I realized that every 10 year old girls fairy tale is likely to be every gay mans fantasy. All I really want is a handsome Prince to wake me up from this fog of a dream I’m living in. Lord knows I’ve got enough fairy’s in my life. But we can always use another tutu or two.