Ballet Northwests spring production, Sleeping Beauty, marks more than one milestone for the company.
The Tchaikovsky ballet was the first one produced by artistic directors Ken and Josie Johnson, who took over the company and Johansen Olympia Dance Center five years ago. Its the first spring ballet the couple has chosen to repeat.
And its part of the dance schools 40th season.
We have students now who are the children of former students, Bud Johansen, who founded the school with his wife, Mary, and still teaches there, wrote in a news release about the anniversary.
When we first arrived here in 1972, Mary said, We may not be here long, he recalls. And for one of the rare times in her life, she was wrong. And happily so.
The Johnsons and the Johansens are celebrating the anniversary with a reception after tonights performance.
Were inviting family and friends and alumni to come back and also share in the excitement of The Sleeping Beauty, Ken Johnson said.
The couple has enjoyed revisiting the Tchaikovsky ballet. Its been fun to see how much the dancers have improved the last four years, he said. We changed some of the choreography to challenge our dancers.
The ballets third act is focused on the characters who come to the wedding of the awakened Aurora and Prince. Theyre the traditional fairytale characters Red Riding Hood and the Wolf and Puss in Boots, Johnson said. We decided to take the fairytale theme a step further. Using the original Tchaikovsky music, we created some new parts. We have Hansel and Gretel and the witch, Rapunzel and her ladies in waiting, and then Cinderella and the stepsisters.
The Johnsons also trimmed the ballet which in its original version runs nearly three hours down to a manageable two hours. The biggest change is the elimination of princes adventures in the forest before encountering the sleeping kingdom.
Its really accessible for people who might be new to ballet or families or kids, Johnson said. Its fun to take the aspects of The Sleeping Beauty that people love the beautiful classical ballet and music and the formality but then make it accessible and not stale.
The ballet is one of only three composed by Tchaikovsky, and like his others The Nutcracker and Swan Lake it has been an enduring favorite. His three full-length ballets are all so different, Johnson said. In The Sleeping Beauty, there are romantic sections; dramatic, dark sections; fun, whimsical character sections. Its really a treat for the audiences and the dancers.
A lot of neoclassical and contemporary choreographers use Tchaikovskys other works because his music is so well suited for ballet, he added. Its so varied and beautiful.