NW Ballet casts a spell
by Christopher Key
Among my art treasures is a Russian Lacquer box depicting the ancient story of “The Sleeping Princess.” From that venerable tradition comes the tale we know as The Sleeping Beauty. Like the artwork on my box, Northwest Ballet Theater’s production is vivid, colorful and full of magic. Unlike my miniature work of art, you won’t need the help of a magnifying glass to appreciate what Artistic Director John Bishop has created.
Bishop once told me that male ballet dancers are basically furniture. They’re there to make the ballerinas look good. He’s also told me more than once that he was going to hang up his tights and quit performing. Yeah, right. Bishop, as my Grandmother used to say, “…moves along right pert.” And he still tosses around those ballerinas like they were made of Styrofoam®. I’ll believe in his retirement as a performer when they carry him out toes-up. He dances the role of Prince Florimund like someone a third his age and watching him work is, by itself, worth the price of admission.
Princess Aurora is the name of the drowsy damsel in the ballet version and she’s portrayed by Ballet Bellevue’s Julie Heffner. She is the very definition of grace and elegance and her background in gymnastics is evident in her athleticism.
Her nemesis is the Satanic Maleficent. You will find it incredibly difficult to believe that this evil monster is played by the 15-year-old Delci Syvertson. Not only does she evince a stage presence far beyond her years, but her physicality brings the role to seething life.
Infallibly enchanting, Chloe Johnston dances the role of the Lilac Fairy with the flair that NBT audiences have come to expect from her. We’ve been enjoying her performances for so long that it’s hard to remember she’s just 17.
Is there anything Hailey Forsberg can’t do? The 2014 NBT Performer of the Year is all over the Mount Baker Theatre stage as she dances both Princess Florine and the Diamond Fairy. She may be rather diminutive, but dynamite comes in small packages.
Bellingham native Henry Winslow has been dancing since age four and that experience shows as he seemingly levitates across the stage as Bluebird and a Courtier.
Two performances to watch for are those of Ryann Lewis and Amanda Alexander as Maleficent’s partners in crime. They are most assuredly not men, but they can hench with the best of them.
One of the many attractions of any NBT performance is the sheer numbers of dancers Bishop manages to incorporate into his productions. Being the showman that he is, Bishop understands that adorable little girls and boys make good theatre. Audiences seem to agree.
Having been backstage at a couple of NBT performances, I can assure you that the polished performance you see emerges from what resembles a change of government in a Banana Republic behind the scenes. One of the major reasons you don’t witness any of the chaos is Bishop’s wife Mieko. She consistently defies the laws of physics by being in several places at once and it’s about time she got recognized.
The technical excellence of NBT productions is due in large part to Dave Wright. He’s listed in the program as Lighting Designer. That’s because there isn’t space enough to give him credit for being NBT’s Mr. Everything.
One of the few things he doesn’t do is costume design. As with any NBT production, this is a monumental task and Nancy Hamilton handles it with aplomb. Just picture the incessant costume changes backstage to appreciate her wizardry.
The Sleeping Beauty performs once more in Bellingham: Sunday, June 7, at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available from the Mount Baker Theatre box office by calling (360) 734-6080 or online at the MBT site. The production moves to Mt. Vernon’s McIntyre Hall next weekend for one performance on Saturday, June 13. Call (360) 416-7727 Ex. 2 to order tickets or visit their website.
The only sleeping at this spectacular performance happens onstage.
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Photo credits - Christopher Key