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IU Ballet Theater casts multiple dancers in lead roles for 'The Sleeping Beauty'

WHAT: IU Ballet Theater's "The Sleeping Beauty" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
WHEN: 8 p.m. March 23; 2 and 8 p.m. March 24
WHERE: IU's Musical Arts Center, 101 N. Jordan Ave.
TICKETS: Purchase tickets at the Musical Arts Center box office from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, or online at music.indiana.edu/ballet. Bursar billing is available for students.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 6, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In its first full-length production since 2005, Indiana University Ballet Theater will present "The Sleeping Beauty" March 23 and 24 at the Musical Arts Center, 101 N. Jordan Ave.

With a mix of original and updated choreography set to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's classic score, the new production is sure to cast a spell on audience members -- and is sure to be different with each viewing.

That's because Michael Vernon, chair of the Jacobs School of Music's Ballet Department, has highlighted the university's depth of talent by casting different dancers in several of the main roles for each of the ballet's three acts, including the principal role of Princess Aurora.

"Normally, in a major production, you have one dancer perform as Aurora. The strength of our department gives us an opportunity for multiple dancers to perform the lead role," he said. "It's a great opportunity for them. That's how they grow -- not necessarily just taking technique classes, but performing onstage with demanding roles and choreography. Varying the lead role will also make it really interesting for the audience."

The ballet tells the story of Princess Aurora who -- cursed by the wicked fairy Carabosse but guarded from death by the Lilac Fairy's gift -- pricks her finger on her 16th birthday and falls into an enchanted sleep until she's awakened by the kiss of a prince.

Considered by many as one of the most famous ballets in the classical repertoire, "The Sleeping Beauty" was first performed in 1890. The production is part of a larger movement by IU Ballet Theater to bring more full-length ballets to the local stage, including "Cinderella" in 2005, in addition to annual holiday performances of "The Nutcracker," a new production of which Vernon choreographed in 2007. Sometimes known as "story" ballets, such performances require substantial preparation and skill.

While much of the original choreography by Marius Petipa for "The Sleeping Beauty" has been passed down over the years -- including Princess Aurora's first dance, which Vernon describes as "iconic and gorgeous" -- Vernon has created some new choreography for IU Ballet's production.

"You've got to do it in a way that merges with the choreography that's been handed down since 1890, even though we definitely dance it in a different way than how they danced it in those days," he said. "Now, it's more athletic, with costumes that show off the physique."

Glenda Lucena, former ballet mistress for the Ballet Nacional de Venezuela who has worked with IU Ballet Theater in the past, is serving as guest ballet mistress. Phillip Broomhead, former principal dancer with both the Royal Ballet and Houston Ballet, is serving as a guest coach. Distinguished Professor Violette Verdy is assisting with the production as well.

The set, designed by C. David Higgins, is the last created before his retirement after more than 40 years serving as master scenic artist at the Jacobs School of Music. Known for his Italianate painting style, Higgins was referred to by "Opera News" magazine as one of the finest American scenic artists today.

Guest conductor is Stuart Chafetz, who will direct the Jacobs School of Music Concert Orchestra in their performance of Tchaikovsky's score.

Vernon will give a pre-concert talk, "To the Pointe," one hour before each 8 p.m. performance at the MAC.

All three performances of "The Sleeping Beauty" will be video-streamed live at IUMusicLive.