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The Sleeping Beauty on Ice


The Imperial Ice Stars


Malcolm Tay






The Esplanade Theatre



When Sport and Art Collide

Among the dance-tinged sports at the Olympics, it is figure skating that seems to have most successfully crossed over to the performing arts. (When, oh when, will rhythmic gymnastics get its day in the spotlight?) Considering its history, this transition is hardly surprising.

Ice shows were staged in the United States as early as 1915, prefiguring the rise of touring extravaganzas like the Ice Capades. When Twyla Tharp choreographed a solo for British figure skater John Curry in the 1970's, their collaboration opened the gates for more serious interaction between the sport and theatrical dance.

The highly publicised Sleeping Beauty on Ice, however, doesn't count as a choreographic breakthrough in this sport-art dialogue. Movement variation is not one of its strong suits. Even the hardest feats threatened to look ho-hum after the umpteenth repetition.

Still, no one goes to Disney on Ice expecting avant-garde innovation and the same applies here. Everyone - yes, the whole family - can sit back and enjoy this hearty and glossy popsicle, performed by a largely Russian cast of over 20 champion skaters.

Choreographer Tatiana Tarasova's rendition of this familiar story varies slightly from the 19th century ballet classic, though not as much as Singapore Dance Theatre's plot-within-a-plot version earlier this month.

The realms of good and evil are visually contrasted with Natella Abdulaeva's finery and Eamon D'Arcy's plush sets, setting off the bright expanse of King Florestan's palace with the wicked Carabosse's dingy forest. Perhaps it's too obvious for some, but it works.

The trimmed and edited Tchaikovsky score solves the problem of replicating the notorious Rose Adagio on ice, which would be well nigh impossible anyway. Here, Princess Aurora (Olympic medallist Mandy Woetzel) dances with four suitors without having to hold those long, tiring balances.

Elena Pyatash's gentle Lilac Fairy is given a male sidekick to cart her around, while Maria Borovikova's teeth-gnashing Carabosse has her own cronies. It's funny how Carabosse sneers and shudders at the sight of her nemesis. I imagine their conflicts began when they were in primary school.

More significantly, the bumbling courtier Catalabutte - usually a minor, foppish character in most retellings - gets more stage time and helps find Prince Desire (Vadim Yarkov) who will awaken the slumbering Princess. Catalabutte, played by an excellent Anton Klykov, nailed his flashy tricks with a cheeky flourish and almost stole the thunder from the protagonists, who seemed bland when compared to his physical exuberance.

Watching the Imperial Ice Stars, it's easy to forget that they - just like Chinese acrobatic troupes - are risking their lives for our viewing pleasure. That's no excuse for errors, of course, but we can forgive a wobble or two. During those whirling lifts, the women were just inches away from bashing their pretty heads into the icy floor. And there were many such lifts.

With bouts of aerial stunts and stilt-skating as well, this Sleeping Beauty presents a pleasing cocktail of athletic peril and artistry. But I'm still waiting for that special work that will erase the lines between figure skating and dance. For now, this will do.

"Everyone - yes, the whole family - can sit back and enjoy this hearty and glossy popsicle, performed by a largely Russian cast of over 20 champion skaters"

More Reviews by Malcolm Tay

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.