"The Sleeping Beauty"
American Ballet Theatre
July 6, 2013 matinee
Metropolitan Opera House
New York, NY
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©2013 by Carol Pardo
Alban Lendorf is a prince, though not, perhaps in the long, lithe, linear mode, most familiar to American audiences. Lendorf, not yet 25 and a principal with the Royal Danish Ballet, is on the short side with a square-ish head. His line has softer contours than we’re used to, mezzotint rather than etching, but he’s the real deal. And he brought traditional Danish values—burnished male technique fully integrated with strong characterization—to a production that needs all the help it can get.
From his first entrance, his technique, particularly a high buoyant jump, thrilled an ABT audience that responds happily to the athleticism of male dancing. But he also has a soft deep plié to go with it; this prince lands on ermine. Désiré ruled the stage, but he’s still stuck in ABT’s fairy tale: Lendorf could not correct the lack of logic or musicality that has his first entrance take place too early and to music meant for another purpose. All that bouncing around was superfluous. To command attention, he needed only walk on where Petipa and Tchaikovsky intended that he should. But making lemonade out of lemons, Lendorf turned all that showing off into an introduction to his character.
He told that story with unusual clarity. Courteous games of blind-man’s-bluff came to an end as soon as Aurora’s palace was made visible to him. Everyone was politely but firmly told to leave. His heart and mind had moved beyond mundane amusements, waiting and more than ready for love and the Lilac Fairy. Thereafter, he became an ardent suitor, intent on Aurora to the point of shrugging off the Lilac Fairy’s minions when they tried to keep him from her, all with an intensity and naturalism that made the story human. Only one detail, required by the production, didn’t ring true: no man (and Lendorf’s prince was a man, not a boy) who is so deeply in love would need to be told to kiss his beloved.
His Aurora was Xiomara Reyes. At her birthday, this princess was still a child, requesting parental permission before accepting roses from her suitors. In her solos—particularly in accelerating turns that stopped (on the music) just short of delirium—she was carried away by the delight of dancing; royal decorum overcome by joy. Pricked by the spindle, incomprehension, fear and panic consumed her just as completely. This was a princess who had never ventured beyond her castle walls, an innocent, well wrapped in cotton wool. The vision scene was as necessary a rite of passage for her as it was for her prince.
In the final pas de deux, nothing was rushed: maturity was expressed as serenity. At every opportunity, the two made eye contact with his body reaching around to shelter her, their gazes filled with wonder. Aurora had grown up, but she wasn’t being thrown unprotected into the adult world.
Both Yuriko Kajiya as the Lilac Fairy and Stella Abrera’s Princess Florine conveyed the essential narrative points of their characters. Kajiya made sure that Aurora would not die and that Désiré was ready to discover his princess. Abrera listened to and for the Bluebird, and heard what he imparted. But Kajiya’s dancing lacked the weight and authority to convey the fairy’s power, while Abrera was undone by rough moments during the Bluebird pas de deux. The evening belonged to Reyes and Lendorf, Aurora and Désiré.