Kaori Nakamura’s signature style epitomizes the ethereal gracefulness of Robert Hynd’s 1993 update of “The Sleeping Beauty.” Even when performing the most physically strenuous moves on opening night of “The Sleeping Beauty” at Pacific Northwest Ballet last Friday, Jan. 31, Nakamura as Princess Aurora sustained a seemingly effortless gravity-defying delicacy.
Hynd’s freshening for the English National Ballet of Marius Petipa’s original 1890 choreography, which hit the Seattle stage in 2001, honors the work’s Russian roots. The role of Aurora continues to be as sought-after by ballerinas now as in Petipa’s day as a showcase of demanding classical technique and interpretation.
And Nakamura made it look breezily easy, from her impossibly prolonged balance work on a single leg en pointe in the “Rose Adagio” to her convincing evolution from fresh-faced teen to the maturity of the wedding pas de deux.
There was some sharp unison work from ensemble members, despite occasional messiness. The ballet also has lost none of its pageantry, with sumptuously fanciful costumes and set, both designed by Peter Docherty.
In the best fairy-tale fashion, “The Sleeping Beauty” features a prince, a princess and a variety of fairies — plus a nasty curse. The wicked fairy Carabosse is furious when she is somehow left off the guest list for Princess Aurora’s christening and curses Aurora to die when she turns 16. The Lilac Fairy commutes Aurora’s death sentence into a 100-year nap, until a prince’s kiss returns the princess and her court to the waking world.
While the Prince is more of a supporting role to Aurora, Seth Orza managed to be a spirited presence without stealing focus from Nakamura. With one minor bobble, Orza’s powerful rapid-fire leaps in the wedding pas de deux were breathtaking.
Jonathan Porretta clearly relished his role as the malevolent Carabosse, ominously swirling his robes and dishing out devilish retribution for not being invited to the christening. As the Lilac Fairy, new principal dancer Laura Tisserand was a firm counterweight to Carabosse and warmly compassionate with those suffering from the evil fairy’s misdeeds.
Angelica Generosa’s Fairy of Joy was exactly that: joyfully sprightly.
The Gold and Silver Pas de Trois — featuring Lindsi Dec, Andrew Bartee and Jerome Tisserand — did not wow me the way it often does. For some reason, Dec’s athletic movement seemed out of keeping with the flowing gracefulness of the ballet, perhaps in comparison to Nakamura’s exquisite levitation. Bartee and Tisserand were a wonder, though, with some breathtakingly fast, mirror-image moves.
Kiyon Gaines as Puss in Boots and Sarah Ricard Orza as the White Cat provoked an abundance of chuckles as the comic relief. The duo were delightfully and convincingly cat-like.
Leta Biasucci and Benjamin Griffiths were striking as the Bluebirds, from Griffiths’ astounding jumps to Biasucci’s bird-like flutters. Skilled guest artists such as Otto Neubert as the King and Uko Gorter as Catalabutte were welcome additions.
Under the baton of conductor Emil de Cou, the orchestra provided the dancers with a deftly supportive backbone of Peter Tchaikovsky’s music, including some gorgeous solos achingly in sync with the dancing.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Sleeping Beauty” performs at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall (321 Mercer St.) through Sunday, Feb. 9. For ticket information, visit www.pnb.org or call (206) 441-2424.
MAGGIE LARRICK is a former editor of the Queen Anne & Magnolia News. To comment on this review, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.