And so to the second part of Peter Schaufuss’ Tchaikovsky Trilogy of the three great Russian classical ballets. In Sleeping Beauty, re-titled A Sensual Dream, the complicated weaving of the choreographer’s vision in connecting all three ballets together begins to make a little more sense – at least to those who had viewed his Swan Lake. Again another glorious traditional classical masterpiece has been re-worked, but happily there is more dancing here than in Swan Lake, giving the company greater opportunity to show off technical abilities. However, the ballet scenario skips around the original and is still far too complicated to just sit back and enjoy. The little grey cells had to be switched on throughout the evening to hopefully work out who’s who and what relationship they are to each other – not always successfully, I admit.

Peter Schaufuss' Sleeping Beauty: King and Queen
Peter Schaufuss' Sleeping Beauty: King and Queen

The set and some of the costumes remain the same as in Swan Lake, though happily relieved a little from the dreary grey with touches of red both in the Queen’s dress and the lighting on the mirrored backdrop. The music is again recorded and very uneven in tempi and volume – at times ear-piercingly loud. Tchaikovsky would have been horrified.

The ballet begins with the King and Queen (Von Rothbart and Queen Mother lookalikes) making love, and just minutes later, she goes into labour on the bed. Her legs, swathed in her red Lycra skirt part and from under the bed, her pink, ‘naked’ offspring shoots out (most effectively), to be carried onto the bed by her proud father. Four beaming fairies come and pay the baby homage, and give her a pair of sparkling shoes as their gift. Enter Carabosse, daughter of the King and step-sister to the baby Aurora. Danced by the wiry, petite Yoko Takahashi, now looking like Cat Woman in her sleek black outfit and knotty stiff pigtail, she stalks her prey and pounces, convincingly showing her anger and hatred for all and sundry with speedy stabbing steps, finger-pointing and whizzing turns. When the baby has been taught how to walk – like a Coppelia doll – she exchanges the fairies’ shoes for her own magical ones.

Time passes quickly and soon the baby is sweet sixteen and ready to meet the four prospective princes – Spanish, Arab, Chinese and Russian, as were the prospective bride-princesses in Swan Lake. (All eight dancers are to meet in Nutcracker). In a touch of comedy, Aurora finds that her shoes glue her to the ground and so the pseudo Rose Adagio is done mostly with her on the spot. The role of the princess was danced by Megumi Oki (last seen as the Swan Girl), another tiny-framed dancer who has a spritely leap and fast spinning turns.

In this re-working, the Dream Master plays a leading role, like that of the Lilac Fairy, guiding and guarding the Young Man – Prince Florimund – throughout the ballet (indeed he dons a purple shirt for the Awakening scene.) Unlike his Swan Lake performance, Stefan Wise was now able to show his technical abilities in light but strong leaps and neatly placed turns. He solicitously cares for the bare-chested prince who starts out cowed and limp (did he become a swan at the end of the first ballet? Did he die?), but comes to life when yet another awful, cropped, lime-green jacket is thrust upon him by the Dream Master. Their duet offered the best dancing of the night. The two young men performed in harmony with each other (was it hinting at that Tchaikovsky-homosexual link?) and their journey to find the sleeping princess was the most interesting visually. Perspex sliding panels were used to seal off her world, while black banners were dropped to give the impression of a thick forest with high trees. Of course, Carabosse is lurking and catches up with the Prince behind one of these trees, resulting in some leg-thrusting with him. Finally the prince reaches Aurora, turfs off her magical shoes, and she awakens. And now it’s time for everyone to dance. The fairies return and each has a joyful, playful solo. The ‘grand pas de deux’ with Aurora and Prince Florimund is performed with more rolling on the floor and balletic lifts and high jetés. Alban Lendorf was given greater opportunities in this ballet to demonstrate his fine Danish training and musicality and, despite the green jacket, his lovely line. Finally Irek Mukhamedov as the King had his turn to show what he still can do. The once agile, macho dancer can still offer good lines and tidy footwork, and while the choreography didn’t demand anything resembling the exciting steps he was wont to do in his prime, he still performs with a lovely smile and contact with his public. It was great to see him again.

While the Dream Master takes the young couple to the bed, the King walks off stage with his arm around Carabosse and wearing his leather, feather-collared Von Rothbart coat. More work for those little grey cells!

***11