Bringing out the beauty

Even evil gets chance to shine in 'Sleeping Beauty' ballet

Posted: Thursday, April 14, 2005


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  Good fairies Tory Coursen, front, and SammiJo Kelly practice a scene in "Sleeping Beauty." The ballet will be performed Saturday and April 23 at Soldotna Hight School. By Jenny Neyman

Carabosse the evil fairy, played by Kathleen Knowlton, is surrounded by good fairies Heather Paxson (right), SammiJo Kelly (center) and Taylor Moore, in a rehearsal for "Sleeping Beauty" earlier this week at North Star Dance Studio in Soldotna.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Though her character has been feared by generations of kids watching Disney's rendition of the "Sleeping Beauty" fairy tale, Kathleen Knowlton says she loves playing Carabosse, the evil fairy who everyone hates for putting Aurora to sleep.

Knowlton is performing as part of North Star Dance Studio's "Sleeping Beauty" ballet staged this Saturday and next.

"You really get your teeth into it because she's evil ... and she can do what she wants because she's a free spirit in the play because she's not in this little box of being good," Knowlton said of her character.

North Star's ballet is set to the classic Tchaikovsky music and the story is adapted from the original ballet, though sections have been cut to trim the three-hour running time to two. The king and queen have a daughter and want to celebrate the birth with a christening. The fairies in the kingdom are invited to bestow their blessings on the child, but Carabosse gets snubbed without an invitation. So she crashes the christening and pronounces a curse on the child — that she will one day prick her finger and die.


Good fairies Tory Coursen, front, and SammiJo Kelly practice a scene in "Sleeping Beauty." The ballet will be performed Saturday and April 23 at Soldotna Hight School.

By Jenny Neyman

Luckily, the Lilac Fairy hasn't yet given her blessing, so she softens the curse by declaring the child will fall into a deep sleep instead of die, and can only wake up after 100 years by the kiss of a prince.

So is there some shred of decency to Carabosse? Could it be that she just suffers from a severe case of low self-esteem and if she had been invited to the christening, she would have come happily and bestowed a positive blessing like the other fairies?

No; she's evil, Knowlton says — and she wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's wonderful. They all have to be good and I don't," she said.

In the original ballet, Carabosse isn't a dancing part, but director Norma Cooper re-worked much of the choreography to fit the ballet she wanted to put on and in the process, decided Carabosse should dance, as well.

Knowlton, one of the adults in the cast, said she has been dancing since she was a child so she was happy to add movement to Carabosse's part.

"I absolutely love it," she said. "I am such a ham, I love acting and singing or dancing or anything that's in the theater. "(Cooper) decided that she wanted Carabosse to be a dancing part as well as an evil character, so I get to combine the two elements of the dancing and this evil person. It has really been a challenge and great fun."

The ballet has a cast of 35 ranging from 10- and 11-year-olds up to adults. There's also a guest performer to play the prince — Lucas Anderson, who played in and helped choreograph Kenai Performers' production of "Brigadoon."

"I enjoy working with the different ranges. On the other hand it is a challenge, too," said Cooper, who has been teaching dance on the central Kenai Peninsula for the last 16 years. "I think the kids get a chance to see what the people who are advanced can do."

Though performing a full-length ballet complete with sets and costumes along with two hours of dancing is a challenge in itself, Cooper said the biggest hurdle to overcome in putting on a ballet with a plot has been getting the performers used to the idea that they need to act, as well as dance.

"The biggest stumbling block was the acting because you have to mime everything," Cooper said. "There's no words, you have to describe with your body and arms what you're trying to say. And some kids are just naturals at it and some have a hard time with it."

Even dancers who were part of Cooper's full-length ballet last year, "Les Sylphides," had to learn to dance and act this year.

"Last year's was strictly dancing, there was no story to it so you didn't have to mime anything, where as this has a lot of action," Cooper said.

The music and story of Tchaikovsky's ballet are so beautiful that Cooper didn't want that to be lost, so she made a point of training the dancers to integrate their movements with the music, not just use it as a backdrop.

"I think the hardest part was for the kids to tailor their acting to the music and to realize there are musical cues," Cooper said. "They're not used to doing that. They're used to hearing the music for the dance and that's it."

Though much of the ballet is designed to evoke beauty, especially with graceful choreography for the fairies, Aurora and the Prince, the ballet isn't entirely meant to be ethereal grace —not when Carabosse and her cadre of imps come onstage.

"It's always been a wonderful ballet to go see," Knowlton said. "... To be able to be in it and play that wonderful part is too much fun."

"Sleeping Beauty" will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday and April 23 at the Soldotna High School Auditorium. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors at the door.

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