Matthew Bourne offers an exciting contemporary take on Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty
There are many ways to tell a fairy tale, and just as many ways to dance one. Matthew Bourne's choice to have "Sleeping Beauty" born in late 19th century Russia (when Tchaikovsky wrote it), and awakened in 2011 gives the ballet a glowing freshness. Courtiers who waltz at the princess' birthday party, club it up with abandon at her wedding. The hard-won love story of Aurora (Hannah Vassallo) and her prince of a guy Gus (Chris Trenfield) remains, but the backstory of the wicked fairy Carbosse is given equal attention with the addition of her really vengeful son Caradoc (both danced by Adam Maskell). Time-honored elements of the classic are either removed (dancing animals and gemstones) or reconsidered (Aurora's christening is now a raucous nocturnal visit by fairies of both sexes). Also not missed is over-stuffed scenery, though Aurora and her noble parents live in an accurate rendering of the Yusupov Palace. Bourne's combination of ballet and modern has been perfected and serves the graceful, barefoot heroine well; she throws her roses with abandon rather than giving them a ladylike toss. The cast of versatile dancers is clearly having fun...well except for the King and Queen. They never crack a smile, which is expected when you make a pact with an otherworldly spirit and look like Nicholas and Alexandra.