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© 2017 The Strand Magazine

'Les beaux dormants' - Royal Opera House

November 25, 2019

Hélène Blackburn has artistically adapted Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty into the multifaceted masterpiece that is Les beaux dormants (The Sleeping Beauties). The work follows the indefinite and convoluted transition from childhood to adulthood. Performed by Le Ballet de l’Opéra National du Rhin, the ballet is a symphonious blend of the traditional and the contemporary, incorporating divergent forms of music and dance into the programme. 

 

The narrative undoubtedly deviates from Tchaikovsky’s classic tale of a damsel-in-distress, instead portraying the beauty, fear, thrill and dread that characterises the coming of age period. The mixture of classical ballet with hyperbolic movements encapsulates the complex nature of ageing. Much like a fragmented puzzle, each sequence and solo presents a different aspect of change experienced throughout the process of maturity. 

 

Ballet du Rhin - Les beaux dormants Nis&For

 

Upon entering the Royal Opera House's Linbury Theatre, the audience is welcomed by projections of children skipping along the venue's columns. This jovial and simplistic presentation is soon replaced by the dancers wandering in, weaving in and out of these same columns. The performers’ gradual increase in their pace of movement—in the buildup to an uncontrollable and dynamic dance sequence—reinforces the complexities of emotional and physical development over time. 

 

With male dancers in heels and skirts, and female dancers in suits and trousers, the production continually subverts gender stereotypes within fashion. This gender fluidity underlines the beauty apparent in every individual, regardless of their exterior presentation and sexuality. The occasionally ominous dance sequences alongside cold, monotonous background sounds also alters the common perception of youth as carefree and joyous. This reversal enriches the production in its exploration of the hardship, growth and development experienced by children as they progress in life.

 

Ballet du Rhin - Les beaux dormants Nis&For2

 

The production also stands out in its experimental approach to music. Whilst more familiar aspects of Tchaikovsky’s works are still apparent, the ballet introduces persistent bass beats and decidedly modern synthesised sounds. This mix of classical composition and rigid rhythms emulates the inevitable nature of ageing, allowing for the audience to embrace and reflect upon their own experiences.

 

Les beaux dormants will prove to be charming for audiences of all ages. Delicately produced and expertly performed, the sixty-minute production is an oddly familiar yet organic creation that grapples with the idea of adolescence, blossoming and adulthood.

 

Edited by Alexia McDonald, Head Digital Editor

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