Those who follow the CW’s reality show Breaking Point may have enjoyed Ballet West in this weekend's Chicago premiere of The Sleeping Beauty at the Auditorium Theatre. And those who appreciate the precision of Chicago Sinfonietta musicians playing Tchaikovsky may also have been entertained by the production which featured lavish scenery and costumes by Peter Cazalet. But for those who came to see first-rate ballet dancers, well um, then they’re better off returning to the Auditorium in a couple weeks when the Joffrey performs.
In other words, Ballet West leaves a lot to be desired—unless you desire posturing, posing and countless bows. Although challenged by mostly unchallenging choreography, the company had no difficulty taking curtain calls, like Trophy Kids who accept high praise for little merit.
The leads were particularly unimpressive. Elizabeth McGrath (the Lilac Fairy) barely moved while Rex Tilton (Prince Desire) ran back and forth a lot, with nary a leap. And wobbly Christiana Bennett (Princess Aurora) was miscast in the title role, especially since she repeatedly failed to nail a key move.
Fortunately the evening afforded a few exceptions, namely Haley Henderson Smith as the Fairy of Jealousy; Amy Potter as the White Cat; Alexander MacFarlan as Puss-n-Boots; Arolyn Williams as the Fairy of Kindness; Emily Adams as the Fairy of Temperament; and Christopher Sellars as the Bluebird.
Yet their contributions were not enough to override Artistic Director Adam Sklute’s overall emphasis on prancing above dancing via Pamela Robinson-Harris and Mark Goldweber’s superfluous staging. Dry ice and glitter confetti were also thrown in as a means to distract discerning viewers from the lack of ballet content.
Perhaps Ballet West’s fans are accustomed to these tactics since season one of Breaking Point spent more time manufacturing drama off stage than showing the dancers on stage. Of course, after seeing the company perform live, that’s probably the best move Ballet West has made.