It’s alright, sometimes, for a classic to own the fact that it is a cliché. The Pennsylvania Ballet’s performance of The Sleeping Beauty, directed by Angel Corella was a lovely, lush but unsurprising presentation. Eighteenth-century aristocratic bling? Tick. (I should say that I particularly liked the red heeled white boots in Act III as symbols of social status: all very Louis XIV.) Posh peasants in flaired skirts with sweet-smelling garlands? Tick. Malevolent Fairy with evil looking henchmen who looked like orks? Tick. Frilly foliage, prettified skies and generic Corinthian columns? Tick. I had just come back from Zeffirelli’s La Bohème at the Met the evening before so this Sleeping Beauty’s sets seemed all the more primitive in comparison; ballet sets are often abjectly lacking in verisimilitude. I’ve certainly seen the equivalent of tonight’s sets in most classical ballet productions since I started going to ballets as a child in the 1980s. Nobody seems too demanding. That said, ballet-fake has its own respectability; certainly, as long as the dancing is good and the orchestra on form to indulge in lovely Tchaikovsky melodies, the pinky-gold clouds and the starry skies can’t offend our sensibilities too much. We are too dazzled by beautiful bodies moving in space and in time.

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in <i>The Sleeping Beauty</i> © Alexander Iziliaev
Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in The Sleeping Beauty
© Alexander Iziliaev

Mayara Pineiro is one of four dancers to play Aurora this season, and she was a lithe and poised princess. Her timing was crisp, her dancing undaunted, and her balance, as she went from suitor to suitor, precise. If she did lack a little visible ardour for her Prince (being more attentive to her audience than to her swain), it’s only how one has often seen it played. (Alexei Ratmansky’s refined version for ABT, which put the story ahead of the show, was a revelation in this regard.) Arian Molina Soca made for a distinguished Prince, with a definite command of stage, and a way of partnering that was attentive and courtly, without being servile.

Dayesi Torriente, the queenly Lilac Fairy had a notably beautiful port de bras. They lengthened out endlessly in her movements, and she was thus quite alluring to watch. The good fairies in all their charming differences were fleet and fast, delighting with dexterous footwork and very precise timing. The corps and the various groupings (trios, sestets and so forth) managed, in general, an impressive synchronicity. The line was not ragged, or at least, not often so; there was a precision of timing and a unity of effect which was visually pleasing. The character parts in the Wedding scene were, as ever, popular, particularly the sparring partners, the eternal feminine White Cat (So-Jung Shin), and Puss in Boots (Etienne Diaz). Blue Bird (Jermel Johnson) was beautifully light on his feet, and leapt high; he had one very obvious wobble, but recovered well.

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in <i>The Sleeping Beauty</i> © Alexander Iziliaev
Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in The Sleeping Beauty
© Alexander Iziliaev

Beatrice Jona Afron at the podium led a vibrant-sounding orchestra in the overture, although the initial lyrical passages sounded more placid and matter-of-fact than romantic. The whole was very solid, if not always as beguiling and seductive as it might be. That the string solos were sweet but not achingly ardent is indicative of the overall tone. This wasn't going to quite melt our heart, at the emotional level.

The Sleeping Beauty is always a testament to beauty more than anything else: beautiful music, beauty of form, and, so we are told, such an irresistibly beautiful 16 years old, that not even a curse from the Bad Fairy can keep her down. The production showcased old beauties that we know and love well, and there’s nothing lacking about that.