This Sleeping Beauty Is A Time-Traveler

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By Lori Zelenko

Matthew Bourne Master Storyteller Turns Classic Fairytale Into Passionate, Gothic Romance

In Performance at New York City Center through November 3, 2013.

Matthew Bourne tells stories through dance – naturally. Seamlessly shifting between eras he entertains magically. With his new production of Sleeping Beauty at New York City Center through next November 3, 2013, he sees this time honored fairytale as a sexy Gothic Romance, a passionate tale of time travel that is exceptionally enjoyable. Closer to Broadway than to Ballet, this re-visiting of a favorite is surprising, exciting and simply leaves you with a smile on your face from the first scene to the final curtain. Famed for his all male version of Swan Lake, Bourne now completes the trilogy of Tchaikovsky ballets with Sleeping Beauty. Millennium Magazine chatted with him about this fresh take on a beloved classic; his insights into his creative process became as engaging as the performance itself.

“To tell you the truth,” he reveals with wry charm, “I was scared of it. Sleeping Beauty is totally grand. I was put off for years. But then I started to delve into in a different way. And the deeper into it I got the more ideas started to come up. It was definitely scary to begin it. I wanted to keep it a fairy tale not modernize it or make it too literal. I wanted to be emotional, to make it honest to create a true love story.” 

And so Matthew Bourne has created a love story that resonates through time: From 1890 as the story begins to 1911 when Aurora, the sleeping beauty in this tale of love, fairies and even vampires, comes of age to 100 years later when she awakens from her century-long sleep. Bourne continues, “Aurora is a nature girl. She is someone from another era – a time-traveler. She is forward looking, more contemporary then the people around her. She is a woman of the future. Even as a baby she is unruly…not mean spirited but pushing new boundaries. Capricious but kind.”

Experiencing Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is to see this concept of time travel come alive in both visual and physical dimensions. The sets and costumes by Lez Brotherston, are as vital a part of the storytelling as the dance itself. “Lez is my visual partner. We have worked together for 20 years. We think alike. He is the first person I go to with an idea. We conceive together, there is a short hand between us that is invaluable.” The seamless partnership is apparently a natural; there is total symmetry in the design of the dance and the look of the staging.

The imagery and the music have a powerful connection, Bourne confides. “In and of itself merging the two was a challenge. It was a big hurdle personally to work with such famous music. It’s embedded in my brain what movements classically go with the music. So I had break down the score, listen with different ears. With the Rose Adagio I heard for the first time a sense of tragedy, impending doom…what I had always seen as romantic, became ominous. So there were wonderful, surprising discoveries within the music of Tchaikovsky.”

But with Sleeping Beauty Bourne abandons the past – and turns “grand” into grand fun!  Though some classical references may remain – notably the mercurial Fairies, guardians of Aurora – this Beauty gracefully embraces the future.

“Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty” can be seen at City Center, 131 West 55th Street, Manhattan; (212) 581-1212nycitycenter.org.


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