The Four Suitors of Princess Aurora
The opening Scène of Act I is fully staged with six knitters (the original cast list includes eight) who are confronted first by a footman and then by Catalabutte. Following the discovery of the needles, a large cut in the music, made for the 1890 premiere, is opened to allow an extended plea for the King's mercy by the four princes and the Queen on behalf of the knitters.
The garland Waltz was performed in New York by 16 corps couples and 8 student couples. Seventy-two dancers are used when at the Maryinsky, which could be 24 corps couples and 12 students couples. The girl students are on pointe and wear wristlet garlands. The waltz, which appears to be the same version as in the Konstantin Sergeev production, follows the choreographic notation closely and is a wonderful example of a Petipa massed dance for corps de ballet and students, with no soloists.
Aurora's entrance choreography follows the standard Kirov version and does not match the choreographic notation in all respects. Some of the steps are bigger and broader than the notated petite allegro/terre à terre steps. Likewise, the Pas d'action Rose Adagio is essentially the standard version, with choreography for Aurora's retinue revised to correspond more closely to the notation. The Dance of the Maids of Honor and the Pages, taken from the 1952 production, also matches the choreographic notation.
Aurora's variation is notated twice, in very similar versions. The earlier notation is published in Alexander Gorksy's pamphlet (1899) containing Stepanov notation examples. The other is included in the main body of the choreographic notation. The published version is complete, providing movements for the entire body. The manuscript version in the choreographic notation gives complete legwork and footwork, but is less detailed for the rest of the body. With regard to steps, the two versions differ in the number of pirouettes to be performed midway through the variation and in the steps of the final combination. The manuscript version calls for four sets of double pirouettes and a final combination of eight piqué arabesques followed by multiple chaîné turns. The more conservative published version indicates three sets of single pirouettes, culminating in a double pirouette. The final combination consists of fourteen step-up turns, finishing with two or three chaîné turns (two options are given for the final steps).
The Kirov Auroras follow the manuscript notation for the final combination. In addition, a cut is opened in the music to allow for more turns and a more musically satisfying conclusion to the variation. Earlier in the dance, however, none of the Auroras perform the notated diagonal of precipités which precedes the final set of pirouettes. The Royal Ballet has always included the precipités and the Kirov has always performed bourrées instead, and the same was true here, despite the clarity of the notations.
As with the Prologue Pas de six, the coda is a set of entrées for Aurora and her entourage. The needle pricking and vertigo dance follow the standard version, but the sleeping Aurora is subsequently taken into the palace lifted above the heads of her carriers, as if she were dead, rather than on a litter, as per the libretto. The Lilac Fairy here is accompanied by young pages, who receive their instructions as they kneel around her in a way that reminds one of the epilogue of Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which the child fairies encircle Oberon and Titania, awaiting pats on the head.
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Copyright © Doug Fullington 1999. All rights reserved.