‘Sleeping Beauty’: State Street Ballet Updates Classic Fairy Tale

Women Choreographers Rescue Fairy-Tale Princess

Photo: David Bazemore Photo‘Sleeping Beauty’

The traditional Sleeping Beauty story presents cultural challenges to a contemporary audience — a stranger kissing an unconscious woman isn’t the heroic gesture it used to be viewed as. Thanks to State Street Ballet, however, female choreographers are coming to Beauty’s rescue. On Saturday, March 14, the company will present the classic Tchaikovsky/Petipa Sleeping Beauty as reimagined for 21st-century audiences of all ages. Choreographers Cecily Stewart MacDougall, Megan Philipp, and Marina Fliagina have taken on the daunting task of adapting the classic ballet version while altering certain details to deliver a message of women’s self-empowerment. 

One of the most eye-catching aspects of this new production comes thanks to UCSB professor Christina McCarthy, who designed a 15-foot wearable dragon to act as sidekick to the wicked fairy, Carabosse. With great props, moving colors, beautiful costumes, and the dancing, this 90-minute version of what was originally a two-and-a-half-hour ballet should keep the kids engaged through every second. 

As part of their popular Family Series, State Street Ballet intends Sleeping Beauty to resonate with all ages. MacDougall pointed out some of her favorite moments to watch for, including the Garland Waltz, during which the prince and Aurora fall in love in the forest; as well as any scene with Carabosse, the Maleficent fairy godmother, and her dragon sidekick. 

The show has already played to several thousand people in Fresno, where the company performed it two weeks ago. The evening of Saturday, March 14, is the only public performance, but State Street Ballet will also present a special school-day matinee on Friday, March 13, when more than a thousand grade school students can thrill to this reworked classic of the ballet tradition. 

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