The Australian Ballet

Ballet's most lavish pageant parades through the decades

The Evolution of the Sleeping Beauty
The original version of The Sleeping Beauty, by Petipa, was a triumph of excess, loaded with silk, velvet, fur, fountains and visions of gods and kings. Modern productions may not equal this splendour, but they certainly try to evoke it, showcasing dancers at the peak of their art and featuring the giddy heights of designers' invention. At The Australian Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty has been a lodestone, appearing down the decades as a celebration of the company's strength and prestige. 
The Australian Ballet is two years old. Its founding artistic director, Peggy van Praagh, danced with London's Sadler's Wells Ballet, and The Sleeping Beauty is part of her heritage. She mounts a production of Aurora's Wedding (the last act of Beauty) to show off her budding stars. 
The company's footing is assured. Peggy van Praagh stages a full-length production of The Sleeping Beauty, with jewel-bright designs by Kenneth Rowell. It is the first ballet to be performed at the newly opened Sydney Opera House. 
After a succession of directors and patches of instability, The Australian Ballet passes into the hands of Maina Gielgud, who, like van Praagh, will reign for over a decade. A new generation of stars emerges, and Gielgud's production of The Sleeping Beauty opens Arts Centre Melbourne before moving on to wow Covent Garden. Hugh Colman wins a competition to design Gielgud's Beauty; it is his first full-length ballet. Airy pastels for the fairies, storybook blues and golds for the court, a Carabosse with a flaming cloak, a white cat in harem pants and a Rose Adage tutu of soft pink petals make this a Beauty to remember. 
Stanton Welch, son of two of The Australian Ballet's greatest dancers and a former member of the company, returns at the invitation of Artistic Director David McAllister to create a new production of The Sleeping Beauty. He highlights the struggle between good and evil, with an ice-queen Carabosse who keeps the kingdom in perpetual winter. The rich and eccentric design, veering from the space age to Bollywood, is the last work of the legendary Kristian Fredrikson. 
After 13 years as artistic director, David McAllister stages his first ballet: The Sleeping Beauty. The new production gives the historically haloed roles of Aurora and Désiré, Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy and the Bluebird to the stars he has nurtured. A wildly imaginative, luscious design by Gabriela Tylesova frames the dancers in Baroque gold and candy-bright colours. Petipa would be proud. 
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