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New Take on an Old Classic: Adam Sklute and Ballet West Re-imagine “The Sleeping Beauty”

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BalletWest_SleepingBeauty2011_4Before moving to Salt Lake City to take the helm of Ballet West, Adam Sklute spent twenty-three years with the Joffrey Ballet, as dancer, Ballet Master, and Associate Artistic Director. Sklute returns to Chicago this weekend, bringing Ballet West for three nights at the Auditorium Theatre. The company performs Sklute’s take on “The Sleeping Beauty” Friday and Saturday, and a program of contemporary mixed rep Sunday.

What attracted you to the story of Sleeping Beauty?
I’ve been long fascinated with the classics. When I came to Ballet West, one of the things I loved best was our history with the classics. I’m in fact doing “Sleeping Beauty”this year as a tribute to our fiftieth anniversary, as we’ve had “The Sleeping Beauty” in a number of incarnations over our company’s history. I personally liked this work because, to me, it’s about the music and I think of this as Tchaikovsky’s greatest score for ballet. I was excited to produce my own take on it—which is truly a classical version; it’s very much based on the Marius Petipa original. I put my own spin on it, edit it down, make it more palatable for twentieth-century audiences.

Are there signature differences between your interpretation and the classical versions that inspired you?
For younger members of our audiences, I hope the story elements come out more. For children I have fairies with wings and monsters of all sorts. For adults, I’ve changed a number of things to make it more allegorical. I’ve renamed the fairies after the gifts they bestow. A number of little things tighten up the story but bring out the allegory of the triumph of goodness over evil.

Tell me a little about Val Caniparoli’s ballet of “The Lottery” (part of Sunday’s mixed rep program). It’s never performed the same way twice?
The story is the same as the Shirley Jackson story until the end. As you know, each person draws a lot and a “winner” is chosen, as it were. We received permission from Shirley Jackson’s estate to alter the ending. In every performance, each company member pulls a lot and every dancer has the possibility of selecting the chosen lot. If the audience knows that it’s all up to chance as the dancers do that adds to the tension; I’ve seen our local audience hold their breath at that moment. The dancer who chooses the lot has a long and complicated solo. It doesn’t matter who you are in the rest of the ballet, you could become the leading dancer by the end. (Sharon Hoyer)

At the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress, (800)982-2787. Friday-Sunday, October 4-6. $30-$90.

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