Columbia City Ballet is presenting "The Sleeping Beauty" in honor of original choreographer Marius Petipa's 201st birthday. Artistic director William Starrett said he hopes to add some suspense and surprise to an otherwise predictable production.
“My whole goal, my whole life, the whole reason I am on the planet is to have everyone enjoy and discover and love ballet as much as I do,” Starrett said, who has been at Columbia City Ballet for 32 years.
"The Sleeping Beauty" is about a princess named Aurora who receives numerous gifts from fairies after her birth. However, not all of the gifts are good, and Aurora is fated to prick her finger at the age of 16 and fall asleep for 100 years until a prince kisses her and brings her back to life. She is eventually awoken by a handsome prince, they get married and live happily ever after.
The two-hour ballet is similar to the Disney version of "The Sleeping Beauty," but Starrett said it's not exactly the same as there will be a few twists and turns incorporated into his version.
There will be three acts in this version of "The Sleeping Beauty," one act short of the original. The first act is Aurora's christening, the second act is her placement under the sleeping spell and the third act is the wedding between her and the prince.
This production differs from those of the past in that it features a collaboration between Columbia City Ballet and the South Carolina Philharmonic.
“It’s really rare, and what [audiences] have to understand — what I want them to understand — is that for this one price you get to see two of the major arts organizations together at the same time," Starrett said. "I mean, that never happens.”
In addition to the music, there will be surprises in the choreography. However, Starrett said "The Sleeping Beauty" is like the Mona Lisa in that it can't altered much.
“I tried to bring it up to date and keep it unpredictable and kind of current, and at the same time maintain the classical foundation," Starrett said. "Some of it you just cannot touch."
Aurora will be played Claire Richards Rapp, who has been with Columbia City Ballet for eight seasons professionally.
Richards Rapp spoke highly of "The Sleeping Beauty" and said it is on the same level as "Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker."
She said she is excited to produce what she considers one of the most physically and artistically challenging ballets. She said her favorite piece, the entrance of Aurora, is the most difficult.
“I think the entrance of Aurora is really exciting because you come out and it’s like shot out of a cannon. It’s really challenging, but it’s really exciting, too. There’s a lot of adrenaline pumping, so that’s really fun,” Richards Rapp said.
As an arts leader in Columbia, Starrett emphasized the importance of the community supporting the arts, and said he chose the showtimes specifically for this reason.
“That’s why we did two performances — one at 3 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m. — so that grandparents and people who aren’t comfortable driving at night, they can see it in the afternoon," Starrett said, "And then another performance at night to get all dressed up.”
"The Sleeping Beauty" will be performed at the Koger Center on Saturday, March 30.