Will the wicked witch Carbosse succeed in killing Aurora? Or will the princess be wakened by the kiss of the handsome prince after her 100 year slumber? It is of course with this question in mind, fear and trepidation in our hearts, that we are seated. With the end of the story a foregone conclusion, the excitement tonight is in the virtuosity of the dancers.

Sleeping Beauty © Angela Sterling
Sleeping Beauty
© Angela Sterling

The Dutch National Ballet has been dancing this 19th century überclassic by Marius Petipa, with a powerful but still classical update by choreographer Sir Peter Wright, since 1981. The stage is golden, opulent, and the gorgeous costumes Louis XIV style, but it is the interaction between the orchestra and the dancers that drives this performance. Jurgita Dronina and Matthew Golding as Aurora and Prince Florimund show exquisite timing. Their feet and legs move playfully and tease almost every twist and turn of Tchaikovsky’s music, to sometimes humorous and often stunning effect. Only the best can make this look easy. The synergy is in large part due to the excellent accompaniment by Dutch National Ballet’s own orchestra Holland Symfonia through its principal guest conductor Ermanno Florio.

Sleeping Beauty hosts a string of fairies and half the fairytale animal kingdom is invited to the wedding party at the end. This provides an excellent excuse for some on-stage antics. The nymph-like Erica Horwood could not have been a better choice for the Lilac Fairy. Her mime storytelling is crystal clear as she saves Aurora from death through her sleep-spell. Her fights with the evil Carbosse, played by Vera Tsyganova, are well timed and convincing as the latter struts through smoke, lightning and explosions, on the prowl for vengeance for her hurt pride at not being invited to the christening of the princess.

One of the ways the famous corps the ballet of Dutch National Ballet impresses tonight is the lack of sound from the dance floor. No matter how many dancers jump in unison on the gigantic Muziektheater stage, their feet are barely audible if at all. A point an astounded Sir Peter Wright presses afterwards at the première party. It proves that you can have both excellent soloists and a very good corps the ballet. In the Netherlands, apparently, you can have your cake and eat it. With cherries on top.

Princess Aurora © Angela Sterling
Princess Aurora
© Angela Sterling

Matthew Golding, the athletic Canadian who will be dancing for both the Royal Ballet and Dutch National Ballet next season, is a towering presence. He switches effortlessly from his high jumps and turns, to partnering Dronina smoothly. He lifts her into the difficult inverted poses of this piece with breathtaking speed and ease. Dronina’s iconic rose dance with her four suitors in the first act is pulled off with great balance and precision, to a roaring audience reception. Their dancing is closest to the edge in the third act as a lone violinist accompanies each of them through their steps and you can hear a pin drop in the theater.

But there is plenty of other solo action going on. Nadia Yanowsky’s solos in the pas de quatre in the third act are fast, furious and risky. This Spanish dancer, a constant tour de force of Dutch National Ballet, flies, jumps and tiptoes on stage with a big smile with her typical death or glory attitude. Sasha Mukhamedov meanwhile, uses her amazing flexibility, controlled turns and balance to seemingly paint with her legs in the air across the sunny golden canvas of the stage. A muscular James Stout uses his moment in the spotlight to nail his variation with lightning speed. Dutch National Ballet’s artistic director Ted Brandsen and his team, instill an attitude of going all-out. He has successfully been pushing dancers and choreographers to new heights for ten years now. Dutch and international audiences are treated to innovative new dance programmes, classical, neoclassical and modern, each year.

The best of the other performances that merit entioning are princess Florine and her blue bird: Viktoria Ananyan’s fun and elegance method-to-the-madness style of dancing fits well with Isaac Hernandez’s fluttering wing legs. Shy little red riding hood Angela Agresti is chased across the stage by a big and very bad wolf Bruno de Rocha Pereira. And Puss in Boots Rink Sliphorst and Kitty in Pink Joanna Mednick purr and cuddle up one moment and claw at each other the next, providing additional entertainment.

The story remains rather thin but as a justification for great dancing it more than suffices. And as the wedding party closes to a rain of gold glitter we rest assured that the princess was saved, love prevailed over death and that no less than five couples will dance the main roles until the first of January 2014.