Among the many highlights of OBT’s 30th Anniversary Season we are thrilled to present the return of former Artistic Director Christopher Stowell’s The Sleeping Beauty. Earlier this month Stowell was in the studio to rehearse key sections of his production with the company dancers. It has been 10 years since the premiere. We caught up with him to hear what it’s like to revisit his work and learn about his approach to this 19th century masterpiece.
OBT: What is special about your approach to the ballet that’s different from other adaptations? Martha Ullman West commented in her review that you’ve brought a distinctly American approach, calling it an “American Beauty” — is that something you could elaborate on?
Stowell: “My approach with 19th century classics like Beauty has always been to find a balance between respect for the creator’s original intention and style, and reimagining them for 21st century artists and audiences. The first thing I did with Beauty was to put it into two acts with one intermission, so that it had dramatic flow and urgency, and didn’t feel like a Wagnerian event.
At its core Beauty needs to have a sense of splendor and occasion and make Tchaikovsky’s masterful score the driving force. The narrative is simple but Tchaikovsky turns it into something wondrous and actually moving.
From a choreographic perspective, the classical vocabulary is very challenging and revealing, but the risk is the dancers taking only an academic approach, rather than pursuing inspired and spontaneous dancing. I want this production to fulfill our childhood expectations of a fairytale and our adult hunger for a rich arts experience.”
OBT: What are some of your favorite moments in The Sleeping Beauty?
Stowell: There are the obvious highlights such as the dance for all the fairies in the Prologue, Aurora’s entrance and Rose Adagio, the vision scene and the Wedding pas de deux, but Tchaikovsky is so inspired throughout that the mimed encounter between Carabosse and the Lilac Fairy, the court being put to sleep for 100 hundred years and Prince’s kiss are all spine tingling moments. I am also very proud of the Jewels pas de quatre I created for the 3rd act and the 2nd act pas de deux for Aurora and the Prince.
OBT: What is it like revisiting your work 10 years later?
Stowell:I was pleasantly surprised by how well I remember the ballet. It was immediately clear to me what small changes I wanted to make and they were mostly details concerning narrative flow and theatricality. I will never tire of the possibilities for great classical dancing that are at the core of this ballet.
Oregon Ballet Theatre presents The Sleeping Beauty February 15 – 23, 2020
Tickets and info HERE
Banner image: Hannah Davis, Theodore Watler, Jessica Lind, Kimberly Fromm | Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert