One of the dance world’s smartest men, Matthew Bourne, combines his two passions — dance history and musical theater — in his new production of “Sleeping Beauty.” Coming to City Center in October, the piece fuses Petipa’s fairy-tale ballet, choreographed to music by Tchaikovsky, and our cultural infatuation with the undead.
Bourne starts his plot in Victorian England and moves Princess Aurora’s coming-of-age to 1911, the Edwardian era. After she falls asleep for 100 years, the story resumes in contemporary London, and ends with a wedding “last night.”
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“The 1890 section has the manners of a ballet,” said the director by phone from London. “Act II, the Edwardian, uses lots of dance crazes. Aurora reflects Isadora Duncan, barefoot most of the time; we’re playing with dance history as well as the story we’re telling.
“We’re in a fairy tale; there’s historical correctness, but we’re allowed to do what we want. If we’re allowed to have fairies, we’re allowed to have vampires. It’s more of a situation than a world, and has a contemporary feel — a little edgier, a little scarier. The vampire story is there for plot reasons, to make it a love story through the centuries. Aurora’s lover is the palace gamekeeper, shades of Lady Chatterley. How can he stay around for her, when she wakes up in a hundred years? He goes to the dark side for love, and they find each other in another world.”
Bourne also transforms the ballet’s fairies; half are male and half female. The wicked Carabosse, who lays the curse that motivates the story, “is a female character played by a man — and then the same performer plays her son, [a vampire].”
Matthew Bourne’s "Sleeping Beauty"
Oct. 23-Nov. 3
New York City Center
131 W. 55th St.,